KOH2RVA: Day 122

Baby-Jesus-SleepingI keep thinking about the evangelist whose story I shared yesterday. He is a former Muslim, converted to Christianity, and eager to make a billion more converts. He is doing it by telling school children in India the “true story of Christmas,” which somehow ends with the message that if you don’t accept Jesus as your Lord and savior you will perish in the flames of hell for eternity.

That’s not the message I get from the true story of Christmas. In fact, that’s not the message I get from either of the Gospels that tell the Christmas story (Matthew and Luke). I challenge you to read either one all the way through, from beginning to end, and conclude that it’s about how to stay out of hell. Hell doesn’t figure into these Gospels very often. Jesus mentions it 7 times in Matthew, 2 times in Luke. But he makes reference to the Kingdom of God, or the Kingdom of Heaven, a staggering120 times in the Gospels. And when his disciples ask him to teach them to pray he says, “Pray for this: that God’s kingdom would come, his will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

That was his mission.

So, where did we get the idea that our mission is to keep people out of hell? The evangelist I talked with on Sunday might say that he gets it from John 3:16—“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

“See?” he would say. “That’s the true story of Christmas. God loved the world so much he gave his only son, like a Christmas present, wrapped in swaddling cloths.” And I would agree; that is the true story of Christmas. “But if we don’t receive the gift of his son,” he would add, “we will perish everlastingly.”

And that’s where I get stuck

Love with an “if” in it is conditional love. I believe that God loves us unconditionally. I sometimes say to people, “God loves you and there’s nothing you can do about it. There’s nothing you can do to make him love you more. There’s nothing you can do to make him love you less. All you can do is choose to receive the gift of his love.”

What if those Indian schoolchildren heard that message? Wouldn’t that sound more like what the gospel is supposed to be—good news? And if they could really believe that God loved them unconditionally…

Wouldn’t heaven come to earth?

5 thoughts on “KOH2RVA: Day 122

  1. That theology of salvation has been the anchor around So. Baptist’s neck through modern history. I prefer “Jesus is giving you an opportunity to get on board in doing his Kingdom work (and the benefit is spending eternity with him)”.

  2. Yes, you are telling the correct message. It is one of hope and joy, and not one of fear and control. There are so many people out here who are not saved and need to hear the story of salvation from a Christian. God will bring those people into your pathway, and if you are receptive, you can reach out and share the good news of God’s unconditional love for them. Share with them, give them a Bible and invite them to your Church. That’s our daily Mission as a Christian. The minute I stepped out of Church on Sunday morning and onto Monument Avenue, I stepped back onto the Mission Field and am busy going about, doing God’s work. It’s not Rocket Science; just our daily responsibility as Christians.

  3. that makes a lot more sense to me too. i’m an old lady in my childhood the pastors preached a lot of hell and brimstone . i was always scared until i meet a kind loving pastor who thouht like dr.Somerville

  4. A couple of years ago I heard a sermon about being the salt of the earth and the light of the world. And that God loved me – me of all people – just because. And all I had to do was believe with all my heart Jesus was my Lord and Savior. Beintg the salt of the earth and the light of the world sound so much better than i am going to burn in hell if I did not believe. i serve a Loving God.

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