“The longer I live the more convinced I am that a loving God will not turn people of different faiths away from heaven. A loving God just would not turn away a Buddhist, Hindu or any other faith because they are not Christian,” asserted the very bright dinner guest sitting beside me at a large gathering.
How would you respond to such a statement? That is certainly a convenient and less controversial view. Our world wants to picture a doting grandfather in the sky who is amused with our shortcomings much as a human grandfather delights in the baby ways of a young grandchild. And while I believe God delights in His children, such a view skirts the reality and consequences of sin; the whole reason we need a savior in the first place.
Sin is an archery term. It means to miss the mark. Since I played tennis, not archery, let me use tennis to illustrate. In tennis the object is to hit the ball over the net and into the box painted on the court. You can hit the ball any where in the box, even on the line and the play continues or you earn a point. But if you go outside the box it is called a “fault”. When my children were young sometimes their faults went over the fence! As they improved, some were right on the edge of the line.
It doesn’t matter if the ball is hit down the street or right outside the edge, “fault” is called and the player not only receives no point for his/her effort, the opponent is awarded the point. Romans 3:23 tells us that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” We all missed the mark! Not one of us has won a game. Some of us in comparison with each other may appear to have landed closer than others, but we have all fallen short.
I grew up believing that people are basically good. “We are doing the best we can.” I was aware I messed up, but I blamed my circumstances or other people. I didn’t intend to blow it. It didn’t occur to me that the reason I could never meet my standards was because I was flawed within.
We are created in the image of God and as such we have the capacity to love and show compassion and kindness. But under the right circumstances we can all know a baser side too. None of us would relish having all our thoughts and actions flashed across the 6 o’clock news. Jesus on the other hand never showed a dark side, because He didn’t have one.
We tend to look at the outside. God looks at the heart. Donald Gray Barnhouse described the propensity to sin (sin nature) as having poison in our bloodstream. That is the nature we inherited from Adam. The boils that break out on our skin are our “sins”. Some people have ugly ones on exposed areas that are obvious, like murder, robbery and other hideous crimes. Others’ boils are hidden or even applauded in our culture; sins like self-righteousness, critical spirit, and pride. We focus on covering our boils; God sees the poison that causes the boils.
God has said that nothing unclean will be allowed to enter His home in heaven. He had to clean up our sin nature as well as cleanse us of our sins to make us fit for heaven. Jesus shed His blood to cleanse us of our sin. “In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” (Hebrews 9:22)
Back to my dinner conversation and response. I did not go into all I’ve written here. I simply replied, “I can’t see a loving Father rejecting His Son’s plea. In the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus, sweating drops of blood in the anguish of preparing to become sin for the world, in essence pleads three times, ‘Is there any other way? If there is any other way, let this cup pass from me.’ For God to say, ‘there are many ways, but Son, I want You to endure hell to offer one more option,’ does not sound very loving to me.”
A loving God offered us a way to escape the doom our sin deserved. Jesus endured in a few hours what would take any of us an eternity to accomplish. He took our hell so that we can share His heaven. He became sin so we could become righteous (2 Corinthians 5:21).
How could God be any more loving than that?
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