When-Christians-Get-It-Wrong-Sermon-Slide-Wk3-option2Last Sunday, during worship, we talked about other religions and how we, as Christians, should relate to them. How we should have discussions with them. There are many times that we get it wrong when we talk with people from other religions. In order to understand how to get it right, we need to understand a few of the ways the church has viewed those outside the church.

First, is what we would call ‘Christian Exclusivism.’ The belief here is that the only way to get to heaven, is through saying the sinner’s prayer, by accepting Jesus Christ into your life, no exceptions. If you don’t, then you do not pass go, you do not collect $200, and you most certainly do not get to enter the pearly gates of heaven.

Now, you may be saying to yourself, is it not written that the only way to the Father is through the Son, Jesus Christ? Is he not the way the truth and the life? Yes, he is. But what of those who have not heard? What about the groups of indigenous tribes in extreme remote places? What about all of those people who didn’t have a missionary stop by their village before they died to tell them about Jesus Christ? Are they condemned to hell?

Here’s another scenario. I have friends who take care of developmentally disabled kids who can’t function at a certain level, and they most certainly do not understand what it means to make a decision to follow Christ. Does this mean that they will not make it to heaven, because they can’t utter those words? Some would say yes. Now, I don’t have to tell you how heartbreaking that sounds. I just can’t believe that God could do that.

The other side of that belief is something called ‘Christian Universalism.’ All are in, regardless of what they believe, what they have done and continue to do, even if they have never known Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. Rob Bell is the pastor of a church in Michigan and has written a number of books. But one that he wrote turned a lot of evangelical Christians inside out. His book “Love Wins” was a proclamation in what some would call universalism. That there really was no need for hell, because everyone would join together in heaven.

Some of what he says in this book is what I believe about God. He talks about his loving and forgiving nature. We see this in the life, death, and resurrection of his only Son, Jesus Christ. But if the message is that everyone will enjoy heaven, I’m not sure I can follow along with that.

But he does write this; “A staggering number of people have been taught that a select few Christians will spend forever in a peaceful, joyous place called heaven, while the rest of humanity spends forever in torment and punishment in hell with no chance for anything better….This is misguided and toxic and ultimately subverts the contagious spread of Jesus’ message of love, peace, forgiveness, and joy that our world desperately needs to hear.”

To that extent, I agree with him. The idea of predestination and the elect, the thought that you have to utter some certain words in order to enter paradise, goes against my belief in a loving and merciful God. Which leads me to the last group this morning.

‘Christian Inclusivism’ is somewhere between these other two. Foundational is still that salvation is offered in and through Jesus Christ. This was offered through the power of the cross and his resurrection. But here’s the twist. I am not God. I’m pretty sure that you are not either. The judgement is God’s alone.

God can choose to whom and how the merits of Christ are applied. It’s not our decision. So, as we look at those who are not Christians, whether it would be those practicing Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, or maybe as an Atheist like my friend that I have talked about before, God chooses whether to apply the merit of Christ to their eternal life.

Many people who don’t claim to be Christian live their life just as Jesus has called us to live. They help the poor, love their neighbor, care for each other, and speak out against injustices. There are some who are more attentive to the needs of this world and behave more lovingly than some Christians do.

Ephesians Verse 4-5 says this; “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ, by grace you have been saved!” Who are we to say where God will bestow that gift? And how do we pass judgment and limit God’s mercy?

What’s the purpose within Christianity? Is this all about getting someplace? Is it all about the destination? Or is there something more? Do we share our beliefs with those of different religions because we are certain that they will spend eternity in hell? Or do we share with them because Jesus loves us and asks us to do something? Because he asks us to love them? And if that’s so, how can we love them if we spend our lives hating and judging them? It’s not our job.

We need to show the world Christ because he teaches how to love and live with each other. His teachings are of love, forgiveness, mercy, and grace.

We get it wrong when we repel others through judgments, hatred, and misunderstandings. We get it right when we love, find common ground within the good of people, and live in harmony with those around us. Let’s strive to get it right and be the example Christ has taught us to be.