The Hardest Thing
What is the hardest thing about being a Christian? Is it trying to follow the Ten Commandments? Is it going to church every week? How about tithing part of your hard-earned money to the church? Is it letting go of pride and admitting that you can’t earn your own salvation? Or maybe the hardest thing for you is just accepting that the answer could be so easy as to believe in Jesus?
For me, it’s none of these things. The hardest thing about being a Christian is caring about the salvation of unbelievers, especially those who are friends or family. I was talking to a friend about this today and she asked, “Why do you care whether others believe the same thing you do?” The answer was hard to put into words, which is probably why I started this post yesterday but couldn’t finish it. But after talking to her I realized I must finish this post because it is something every Christian who truly trusts in the saving grace of Jesus must be able to answer.
If you are an atheist, you don’t care whether anyone agrees with you. You believe that when you die, that’s the end, so it doesn’t matter what you believe.
If you are a Buddhist, you don’t care whether anyone agrees with you. You are unconcerned with whether there is a God in the Christian sense and believe that there are many paths to enlightenment and your own freedom from suffering is your primary goal.
If you are a Unitarian Universalist, you don’t mind that your family or friends believe something different from you do because you believe that all paths lead to God. Each person’s journey is unique and God will allow everyone who tries to be good into heaven.
If you are a Hindu, Pagan, or New Age you aren’t concerned about whether others believe as you do in this life. Because you believe in reincarnation there will always be another life and another opportunity to learn whatever lessons you don’t learn in this life. You also believe that there are many gods, do not put your trust in only one God, and do not expect others to necessarily trust in the same god or gods as you do.
But if you are Christian, you believe Jesus was telling the truth when He said “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father but through me.” John 14:6. You believe that when each and every person dies they will face judgment before the One True God. In that judgment, if they are judged righteous because they have accepted the atoning sacrifice of Jesus, then they will go to heaven; but if they have chosen to earn their own way to heaven or find their own way to enlightenment, they will be judged unrighteous and will not enter into the presence of God in heaven.
So what is the answer to my friend’s question “Why do you care?” I care because if I am right, and my friends and family have not accepted the atoning sacrifice of Jesus, then my eternal life will be spent without them. I will be in the presence of my Lord and Savior as well as my fellow believers, but there will be people whom I love dearly missing.
Imagine you threw a big celebration and invited all of your family and friends. You invite them because you care whether they come and you will miss them if they do not attend. I believe heaven will be the celebration of a lifetime grander than any celebration we could ever conceive of in our limited human imaginations. I want all of my family and friends to be there.
There are days I wish I didn’t care. Quite frankly, today is one of those days. My heart aches from spending time with some unbelieving friends this weekend and reading Facebook posts by unbelieving family. If I didn’t care, then that ache would go away. But I do care, and it is the hardest thing for me to bear.
Warning, long and wordy comment to follow:
First, thank you for being so nice to me after my comment on Deb’s blog. And I’m honored, really honored, that you would ask me to tell you when my blog is up and running.
Anyway, I wrote this to someone today:
When the blog is up, I plan on sending little sparrows out with gold laced invitations. They will alight on everyone’s outstretched fingers, and sing a delightfully, while delivering said invites to come and see. Along with some bunnies. Bunnies are good. Can’t go wrong with bunnies. Squirrels are cute, but not nearly as reliable. Three bunnies have already gotten plane tickets, and a sparrow has googled his flight plan to Chattanooga. Hope that’s ok.
So, since you’ve now told me it’s ok, I’ll make sure I have bunnies and sparrows lined up for you too.
Now to your brilliant blog today. Isn’t it funny we think something is brilliant sometimes because we agree so strongly with it? That aside – really on target, really well done. I have said this a million (maybe not that many) times. “It’s not my fault, Jesus was being very selective. He said he’s the only way. It would be easier if he were more inclusive in his language. But he wasn’t. Sorry. He said he brought a sword to divide.”
I have thought so long and hard over the last few years about what “saved” is. Not what the church says it is, or preachers, or my Seminary profs, or Luther, or Augustine. But what Jesus said it was, through his own words, and then through Paul, James, and the other guys. I came to this conclusion. It’s the Gospel in 7 words.
Accept the Sacrifice.
Become the living Sacrifice.
It’s the blending of the teaching of Paul and James. To believe is more than just mere assent. It’s also the doing. Not legalistic rules. Not earning heaven. Though Paul, James, and Our Lord all say we will be judged by our deeds. But it is all pure grace – so it left me wondering. It’s a paradox. God is so often a paradox.
We use the words all the time, “accept him as Savior and Lord” then we promptly forget the second part – we accept his sacrifice, then do our own thing. What do you think? I think, I’ll love your answer.
Oh, and your “big celebration” story – beautiful. There’s this Margaret Becker song, it chills me, and says just what you are saying, in a way that probably neither of us can say – at least me:
These are the words
I never speak
‘Cause they’d embarrass you
But they’re haunting me
These are the tears
You never see
They’re foolish to you
But they’re drowning me
Tell me what is wrong?
What can I do
To make this simple truth
More true to you
I don’t want to argue
Hear me with your heart
I don’t want to be without you
These are the arms
That ache for you
Frightened to push too hard
Frightened you’ll slip right through
This is the joy
I want you to know
You say it’s good for me
But, leave you alone
Well, I can’t walk away
Won’t leave you here
When I am so sure
We could always be near
I know a place
Where we can meet
I don’t want to be without you
I’m slain every time I hear it, and convicted.
Beautiful words today Linda, true, meaty, thought provoking.
Craig, Thank you for this wonderful comment. I absolutely love the song – I’ve never heard Margaret Becker but will have to find this so I can hear it sung. I would also love an invitation by bunny or sparrow, or both! What a grand idea to celebrate the launching of a blog to glorify the King.
As for the “Savior and Lord” question, I agree that often we want to be saved by Jesus but not give up control to Him. I believe it is a lifelong growing process, as we learn that putting Christ in control actually leads to more joy and peace than we have when we maintain control (or at least cling to the illusion of control). Some of us have learned that lesson the hard way, maybe most of us will learn it the hard way eventually. I seem to have to relearn it. But I know our Lord is patient and kind, and instructs in the way that is best for each of us.
I wrote a post a few months ago about the connection between faith and works, with a focus on James conclusion that faith without works is dead. If you are interested you could probably find it by searching for “James” and “Works” on my site search.
I look forward to future comments from you. I really do like the way you write and think. I can see the Spirit in what you have to say. Peace, Linda
Just some encouragement my friend. Our Lord and Saviour wants to see those people, those family members saved so much more than we do. That pain and desperation you feel was felt in an unfathomable magnitude by Jesus. It comforts me to remember that. Not that I feel you have done this but sometimes I forget the reality of the fact that He died for them too. His body broke for them to come to Him. I find rest in this. He knows my heart and is able to do something about it. I hope that may encourage you sister. Much love in Jesus name.
Matt, Yes this is encouraging! Thank you. Funny how I am usually the one encouraging in my posts and comments, and now when I need it I receive such encouragement from all of you! Not really funny, I guess, just how God works in His people. Peace, Linda
I care as well, because I believe the gate is narrow and the path is straight. Our God is just and will do as he has said. There will be judgement. I do believe however that we are not wholly responsible for our loved ones salvation and sometimes all we can do is pray and trust the Lord to provide a messenger when we have tried and have met resistance. We can be the seeds, but sometimes we are not to be the gardeners. Our push can be too much when we are too close. It is a wonderful thing to bring someone to faith but we are not always blessed to be the ones to do it. Hold fast, keep faith!
Nancy, Thank you for your encouraging comment. I know that I am not responsible for my loved ones’ salvation, but it is still hard sometimes to care so much. I will hold fast and trust in Him. Peace, Linda
I feel your message and the pain that goes with it loud and clear. I think what it all comes down to is the second greatest commandment, Love thy neighbor as thyself.
When you love people, you care about their well being, and you want what is best for them. If you see them engaging in dangerous behavior, you try to help them see it for what it is. Sharing Christ with those you love closest and wanting them to have a home in eternity is not a selfish act based on wanting them to be on the same page as you. It is a loving act of wanting those who cannot see clearly to see Salvation, and the urgency of obedience. You are on the right track!
Jim, You put it so well! It is not that I want them to agree, it’s that I want what is best for them. For now, I can only pray that the Father will draw them to His Son and they will see. Thanks for the encouragement. Peace, Linda
My heart aches with yours Linda, and I am praying for those in your life to be drawn to Him that don’t know Him yet. This is why I care,too. And that I don’t know how they can go through life here without Him. I did not do well before asking Him into my heart! (understatement) And then, sadly, there is the fact of them living eternally apart from Jesus, if they don’t come to Him before they pass away. And the reality of hell. I wish there wasn’t such a place, but He says there is. I want no one to go there.
Sorry . . .too long of a comment, but a very close to my heart post! love you, deb
Deb, Your comment is the perfect length and just the right words. I wish there was not such a place as hell, too. But for those who choose not to want to be with God during our brief time on earth He allows them to spend eternity without Him as well. Thank you for your prayers. I am keeping your lost loved ones in my prayers as well. Peace, Linda