Tuesday, 28 May 2013

"What's the point of being a Christian if, in the end, everyone is saved?"

"People who ask that should listen to themselves. What's the point in being first rather than last in serving the Lord whom you love? What's the point of being found rather than lost? What's the point of knowing the truth rather than living in ignorance? What's the point of being welcomed home by the waiting father rather than languishing by the pig sties? What's the point? The question answers itself.
But, just in case we do not get the point, Jesus makes it very explicit. One day Jesus is calling people to leave all and follow him. Then Peter - wonderful Peter, whom you can count on to say the dumb things we are all prone to say - burst out with, ' Lo, we have left everything and followed you>" What's the point? he wanted to know. What do we get in return? And Jesus answered , "Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time ..... with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life." And then Jesus adds once again, "But many that are first will be last, and the last first."
The point is that in this life and in the world to come, those who follow Jesus will receive everything they want, if what they want is to follow Jesus. If, on the other hand, following Jesus is not what they want, then the answer to Peter's question - and the question of so many others - is that there is no point in following Jesus. Living in the way, the truth and the life is - for those who know Christ as the way, the truth and the life - self-evidently preferable to the alternative, which is being lost, ignorant and dead. No offense intended, but people who have to ask why that is the case probably wouldn't understand. Those who presume to think that they and others of like religious doctrine, experience or way of life are the first and will therefore be both the first and the last in line for salvation have not, one fears, understood the generosity of the Lord of the the vineyard. Nor do they take as seriously as we all should the sin of presumption.
Is it possible that many, even the great majority of all the people who have ever lived will be eternally damned? I do not know how we could answer that question definitively in the negative. There is also no way that our minds can reconcile that possibility with what the Bible says about the mercy of God and his redemptive purposes for the whole creation. The prospect of even one person being eternally damned should fill us with immeasurable sorrow. We must hope that it is not so..."
Richard John Neuhaus: from Death on a Friday Afternoon ( Basic Books 2000)

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