The universal message of Christianity is that Jesus did it all for us when he died on the cross. He came to die so that our sins might be forgiven and by that death fulfill all the requirements of the law so that we might have grace. This concept of grace has become so stretched, almost far-fetched, that it is now an exclusive Christian passport to do whatever we like and live however we like. Salvation is assured, so no need to bother with rules, laws and regulations that only make us more aware of our sinful nature. Ignore them! Live, breathe and confess a belief in Jesus and his grace, and daily Christian living will be much easier. Oh, the freedom, the joy, the exuberance! A blissful quality indeed.
This perspective stems from the age old debate on faith versus works. With one camp taking from Apostle Paul and teaching that salvation needs no input from the saved, except the requirement to believe in Jesus Christ Galatians 3:10-12 and the other camp, taking from James and teaching that such a theory can’t be correct – as inner faith requires an outer expression in the works that you do in order to bring true salvation. James 2:14-17 However, we will not be going into the nitty gritty of that post-Christ argument. Instead it’s only befitting that we go back to the beginning, back to the verses on Jesus himself; the one whose teachings this religious movement was fashioned after.
There is something fundamentally wrong with the teaching that makes belief in Jesus the key required to unlock a sin free life here on earth and succeed to an eternal life in heaven.
Jesus was a storyteller – not a theologian or a philosopher. He taught and told stories to show people how his teachings might play out in a given practical scenario. In the 25th chapter of Matthew, Jesus decided to enlighten his disciples on what was really important in the end. After discussing the end time and the parable of the talents, Jesus gave them an illustration of what judgment might look like. Matthew 25:31-46 He called it a separation of the sheep and the goats, the sheep being his own and those who would inherit the kingdom. The criterion for such a division however was not belief in him, neither was it the worship or even acknowledgment of his divine son-ship. It was quite plainly this:
“for I was a hungered and ye gave me meat; I was thirsty and ye gave me drink; I was a stranger and ye took me in; Naked and ye clothed me; I was sick and ye visited me; I was in prison and ye came unto me.”
More peculiar was the response of those termed “sheep” for they could not remember doing this to Jesus. Perhaps they suffered some form of selective amnesia. For if it was me, I’d be nodding my head quite firmly in agreement, whether or not I remembered. Or perhaps they weren’t Christians and never knew him; for if they did, they would have recognized him as the naked guy they saw roaming the street last week or from their last prison visit. Or maybe they were just people who did things like this all the time and had seen so many faces that they just couldn’t keep count. But no, the reply was:
“Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it to me.”
Simply put, you did it to someone else while you were on earth and that’s all that matters.
At this point, let us pause and think through this parable and premise on which we are even discussing it. (a) Salvation is by grace; (b) Grace is obtained by belief in Jesus; and (c) Yet, entry into the kingdom of Christ is obtained by doing good to your neighbor; whether you know Jesus or not.
Inside everyone is a Jesus waiting to be loved.
This is interesting and if correct, means that there is something fundamentally wrong with the teaching that makes belief in Jesus the key required to unlock a sin free life here on earth and succeed to an eternal life in heaven. For Jesus himself taught here that for us to even begin to expect a place in his kingdom, he requires something from us in return. Not belief in your heart or a confession with your mouth, not tithes, not offerings, not church attendance and certainly not anything that has to do with him in the traditional sense. He requires good deeds! Good deeds done to our neighbours, strangers, the weak, poor, hungry and lonely. He requires charity. For inside everyone is a Jesus waiting to be loved.
Jesus is not going to materialise from wherever he is to receive your charity, eat your food, drink your water and spend your money. If you are waiting for that, you wait in vain. If you believe that only the church and fellow believers represent Jesus and are worthy of what you have to give, you have failed to grasp the message of Jesus. For he taught that if you show love to only a select group, perhaps those who love you too, or those who consider your brethren, you are no different from the man on the street. Matthew 5:44-48; Luke 6:31-33 Jesus used the parable of the Good Samaritan to define who we are to love and do good to – EVERYONE! Irrespective of race, religion or social status. Luke 10:25-37 He said in Matthew 7:21-23 that there are those who might have done great wonders in his name, who will be cast away because of lawlessness; lawlessness being an absence of adherence to the law. It means therefore that grace cannot be something that enables us do away with living according to God’s laws. The same parable of the Good Samaritan defined the law as loving the Lord thy God with all thy heart, soul, strength and mind; and loving your neighbour as yourself. Luke 10:27 Therefore, if you merely profess love for God or a belief in Jesus and fail to show love to your neighbour, your love is empty, useless and lawless. 1John 4:20
If you merely profess love for God or a belief in Jesus and fail to show love to your neighbour, your love is empty, useless and lawless.
My brothers and sisters, we are not in a relationship with God that is sailing by on grace alone and void of responsibility. We have a responsibility to the pregnant woman on the train that needs a seat, the bus driver opening the doors for you, the beggar on the street, the homeless teenager sleeping rough, the hungry family living next door and the murderer spending the rest of his days in prison. For in each and every one of them, even the murderer, Jesus sits waiting for you to come along and show him love. For it is by this love, says Christ, that men and women will know that we are truly his followers. John 13:34-35
Not to worry. This is not an uphill task because sometimes all it takes is a kind word to do something good for the Jesus in the next person. Let’s challenge ourselves to do more and be more like followers of Christ.