Last time we discussed a FAQ related to ultimate redemption, a question that asks, if ultimately God is going to save everyone, why shouldn’t people just go do whatever they want? Today we want to ask essentially the same question, but in a different way.
However, before I ask it, let me confess my response again has a hint of antagonism I have not yet shaken. We need to discuss these things and I’m glad you and I and others have asked these questions. It’s not your fault, or my fault; this just is the way it is. So, please forgive whatever grace is lacking in my response.
The question is this:
If ultimately God is going to save everyone, where is the motivation to share the message of the gospel? Or at least where is the urgency?
These are questions many people have, and for that reason they are great questions, but again I think they are the result of a system of belief that needs to be examined. Is saving people from eternal conscious torment in hell the only reason for sharing the gospel? We preach and teach that salvation is more than just hell avoidance, but the fact we ask the above question suggests salvation is solely that. Apparently all we’re trying to do is punch people’s ticket to heaven.
However, while we betray our preaching and teaching on this point, I want to say that if God is not going to save everyone eventually, if the only goal of the 80 years we have on this planet is to make it to heaven and bring as many people with us as we can, then all we ought to do is punch people’s tickets to heaven! If people are going to suffer eternally in a place metaphorically similar to a lake of fire, then alleviating their suffering in this life means nothing unless they get their ticket punched. Then, once it is punched, we might try to alleviate their suffering only so they can help to punch other people’s tickets. Nothing else matters. If God is going to condemn to hell everyone who is has not crossed the line of faith in this life, then it is the greatest work of compassion to get people across that line, even to the neglect of people’s physical, material, or emotional needs. Nothing else makes any significant difference.
However, since we very rarely do door-to-door evangelism, it seems to me that either, a) we do believe God is going to save everyone, or, b) we don’t really know how to get people across the line of faith, or, c) we don’t really care. I find no other conclusion.
So let’s assume we do believe God is going to save everyone. What then is our motivation to share the message of the gospel? There are two.
The first is this:
People in the world are hurting and suffering. People are on a desperate search for meaning and purpose, trapped in their quest for fulfillment through the pursuit of their own selfishness. They are in slavery, some to the circumstances of life, others to their own arrogance, all slaves to sin. What they need, more than relief from life’s difficulties is, to know there is a God who made them and loves them, who is in it with them. They need to know life is not without meaning, that they don’t struggle alone; they need to know this all-loving God understands, sympathizes, empathizes with them in their weakness, and knows what it’s like to be them. People are living in fear and need to know the good news that this God became one of them, sacrificed Himself on their behalf, defeated the power of death and gave them the hope of eternal life.
Some people are blind, deceived into thinking the world is all there is and that peace can be achieved through humanity’s efforts. They don’t know God has done for them already that which they could never do for themselves; they don’t know that through Jesus God reconciled all things to Himself by making peace through His blood shed on the cross.
Do people need to be in danger of suffering eternally before we reach out? How long do people need to suffer in order for us show compassion? A lifetime? Years? Months? What if we could prevent someone’s suffering for a day? What if we could give hope to someone who’s been suffering for 30 minutes? Does not suffering of any form or duration give sufficient reason and urgency to share the message of the gospel, to bring a message of hope to the hopeless, a message of life to the dying? Certainly it does.
Our second motivation to share the gospel comes from knowing and experiencing that Jesus’ way is best. We empathize with people in their suffering, not only because of the difference it can make in their lives, but for the difference it makes in us! Life is not found in looking out for ourselves, in the selfish pursuit of our own interests, or even in the comfortable rest of our own safety and security. Jesus tells us if we want to save our life, we’ll lose it, but if we lose our life for his sake we’ll find it. Real life the way God intended it, a life of joy, hope, peace, love, is found in following the example of Jesus and self-sacrificially offering ourselves on behalf of others.
In giving hope to the hopeless, we are encouraged. In bringing relief to the suffering, we are blessed. In sharing peace with those in chaos, we find satisfaction. In offering ourselves on behalf the dying, we both find life. Jesus said a person’s life doesn’t not consist in the abundance of his possessions, but that it is more blessed – it is better – to give than to receive. This is the gospel: new life for those who receive it and real life for those who share it.
It is really good news, really.
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Next time, I want to discuss some other ramifications of our belief that many, if not most of humanity, ends up in hell for all eternity.
Thank you for coming along on this journey of discussion and self-examination as we pursue life together.