There’s a movie coming out about heaven and it brings up a question that I’ve encountered pretty often in my life, and I’m sure you have too.
“I’m a good person. I teach my kids to love unconditionally. I show respect to others. Why do I need to go to church and believe in God? Isn’t this enough to get into heaven?”
It would be, if getting into heaven was about being good. Or respecting others. Or teaching your kids to love unconditionally. But it’s not. Salvation is not something you earn with your good works, salvation is something you accept instead of them.
And that’s the good news. That’s the “gospel.”
Salvation is about having a relationship with God through Christ. It’s about accepting the Holy Spirit to work in you to become more than who you are. It’s not about being good, it’s about loving God.
You can do all those other “good” things, but what if you mess up? What if that one time you disrespect someone else? Or you teach your kid the wrong thing? Or you let your emotions cloud your judgement and you hurt someone?
Being good isn’t enough, because you can’t be good all the time. There will be times when you fall short of even your own standards. And the good news, the gospel, is that you don’t HAVE to be righteous all the time to be in heaven.
You just need Christ.
He’ll take care of the rest; cover you the times you don’t hit the mark you were aiming for. On top of that, he’ll help align your motivations to having his heart for people, give you the strength to treat others well, even if you don’t feel like it.
That is what a Christian believes. We believe it is having a relationship with God that gets us into heaven, not by always getting life right. We say to God, you know what? I’m not gonna always be perfect! Will you please cover me when I get it wrong? Will you please pick me back up when I hurt someone or act in anger?
Christians, throughout time, have put out a message that being Christian means always doing things right. It’s why we’re viewed as hypocrites so often; we keep telling people “a good person doesn’t do ____,” but then we might mess up and and do that ourselves, so the outside world says, “See?!? You don’t even do it, why should I?!?” We talk about being Christian as meaning being “better” than non-Christians – more loving, more forgiving – when really we should be emphasizing that those qualities are things we’re STRIVING for, but don’t always attain.
One of the biggest differences between Christians and non-Christians is not that we’re better, but that we’ve asked God to partner with us to make us better instead of trying to do it on our own. There are definitely non-Christians out there with higher morals, higher standards, and clearer understandings of what’s right and wrong than Christians hold themselves to…but they still don’t have salvation because they don’t want a relationship with God.
And God respects that.
The rough part is, you can’t have eternal life without having a relationship with the source of life. If you want to be with God then you will be with God. If you don’t, then you won’t.
At the end of the day, God does not give eternal life to the “cream of the crop,” the ones who were better than others. He gives eternal life to the prostitutes, the druggies, the outskirts and the riffraff, the gays and the straights and the men and the women who turned to him and said, I don’t have it together. Would you fill in the gaps?
Yes, he says. Yes I will.
Without hesitation and without reservation. If you ask me to be in relationship with you, then I will be in relationship with you – because I offer it freely. I do not ask that you know it all first, I do not ask that you do it all first, and I do not ask that you be a better person first. I will meet you where you’re at and work with you from there.
Because I CAN do it all.
And that is the good news.
For more about ways God works in partnership with us, check out this post on how prayer creates the future, on how God is working with us to overcome a fallen world, or more on how God meets us where we are at and goes from there