THERE are many Christians today who believe that anyone who is not a Christian is doomed to an eternity of suffering in Hell. Any decent person, believing this, would be compelled to try to save as many people from this horrible fate as possible. But is this belief correct? Jesus, having noted the faith and righteousness of a Roman centurion, a pagan, proclaimed: “Assuredly I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel! And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the Kingdom of Heaven. But the Sons of the Kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 8.10-12)
If we accept these words as true, and surely we should, then it is clear that Heaven contains many who are not Christians, and Hell–being nothing other than the Fiery Love of God rejected–contains many who are. Clearly, throughout the Gospels, Jesus sets forth the criteria for entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven, and those criteria include love, kindness, forgiveness, and a refusal to judge others: “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matthew 6.14-15)
“For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the same measure you use, it will be measured back to you.” (Matthew 7.2)
“But go and learn what this means: `I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’” (Matthew 9.13)
“Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful. Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” (Luke 6.36-38)
Is it not clear? Anyone who fails in these things, will calling himself a ‘Christian’ save him? Anyone who obeys God in these things, will being unbaptized condemn him? What about those who die in utter darkness and ignorance, never having been told of Jesus? “Not everyone who says to Me, `Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in Heaven.” (Matthew 7.21) What is this ‘will of the Father’? Is it not following natural law and the inner conscience, if there is nothing else to follow?
Yet it is not by good works that we earn our way into Heaven, because there is no way we can earn the free gift of God’s mercy and grace, which alone can save us. But it is clear that it is not by faith, in the sense of sharing the Christian faith with others, that we are saved, either. The faith which saves us is not faith in the goodness of our works, nor faith that we have the right theology and/or belong to the right church. Rather, it is faith in God, and in His mercy: “So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who has mercy.” (Romans 9.16)
But the unsaved, you may say, do not have faith in God. Yet by their own following of natural law and the goodness of the human heart, they certainly do. If you are a Christian, this will sound familiar to you, and it should. In the Bible we find the following: “Then Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, `Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious; for as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Therefore, The One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you.” (Acts 17.22, 23)
Many unbelievers worship the Unknown God. Therefore, our Bible tells us that they worship the same God we do; and if they do not know this, we should know it.
For those of us who are unable to simply stand on God’s Word, and must prove to ourselves the truth of what it proclaims, the Apostle John has given us the method for doing this. You have only to attend any public gathering, and test the spirits which are there, to see “whether they are of God” (I John 4.1). You may find that, while the power manifested there may be less than what you have experienced as a Christian, that power is clearly the power of God.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, many have been terribly slandered by us. We have persecuted them, and God will hold us accountable for this, you may be sure, for He has said, “Assuredly I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.” (Matthew 25.40)
Let us, from this point onward, repent of our misdeeds and declare that henceforth we shall obey Christ our God, and not judge others or condemn them, so that He will not have to judge and condemn us for our sins. This, of course, does not mean that we do not carry the responsibility of correction and pointing to a higher and better way once it has been revealed.
The love of our God is inclusive. Jesus poured out His life–the life of God–for all. Who am I to say how a person is brought to the truth of His mercy? Ultimately, though, we are either on fire for His love, or on fire in His love. I prefer the first choice.
~ Ember of the Lamb