My uncle passed away a couple days ago. Times like this usually cause people to pause for a bit to think about the biggest questions: life, death, God, and our relationship with him. The book of Ecclesiastes actually says that “It is better to go to a funeral than to a party, because everyone must die, and the living need to remember this” (7:2). Despite that advice, there is a tendency to “hope for the best” and continue on without making any serious changes. We make rationalizations like “He was a nice guy” or “She was better than most” or “I’m a good person.” And then we move on, hoping that we are okay with God.
There is also a tendency to excuse people because they are related to us. Under normal circumstances, we love our family, including our extended family, so it’s natural to have a strong desire to be assured that they are going to heaven when they die. This even extends beyond our relations to our friends, our nation or anything else we belong to.
When I was a child, a movie came out called “All Dogs Go To Heaven.” We could adjust that phrase a bit and it would be pretty consistent with how we think (even if we won’t admit it):
“All (fill in your family name here) go to heaven.”
“All (fill in your nationality here) go to heaven.”
“All (fill in your country here) go to heaven.”
The fact is, all of these are “bottom up” views of salvation, emphasizing blood relationships. The belief is that if you belong to me, or my family, or my ethnic group, or my religious affiliation or my country then you are automatically okay with God. Thus, all you have to do to be in right relationship with God is to be born into my family, nation, etc. It is unthinkable to consider the idea that my friend or grandfather or aunt or child or even me could be headed not for heaven but for an eternity separated from the one true God.
So is it enough just to be a part of the crowd? Do our relationships with other people make us right with almighty God? No.
Enter Jesus. John 1:9 says, referring to Jesus, “He came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize him. He came to his own people, and even they rejected him. But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God.They are reborn—not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God.”
From this passage we can draw out that:
1. Becoming a child of God is a second step. All of us are born from physical parents. But, although God loves each of us, our physical birth into a human family and nation does not give us a living relationship with God.
2. There is an offer. It has been said that religion is people’s attempt to get to God. But here we see God coming down to people to offer salvation. John 1:14 tells us that the Word of God “became human and made his home among us.” Instead of people trying to reach God, we have God himself coming to us in Jesus.
3. God is creating a new family. Our strongest sense of identity, love and belonging usually comes from our family, our upbringing and the culture that surrounds us. But that family and culture cannot give us eternal life. If we want eternal life, we have to join God’s family.
4. There is a choice. God is offering a relationship with him through Jesus, but he gives us the freedom to choose. Some choose to reject him. Others choose to believe and accept him.
So let’s stop for a minute now and examine ourselves before God. What are we trusting in? Are we hoping that our family relationships or being “a pretty good person” are enough? When the end comes, that won’t hold water. You have to be a part of God’s family to inherit eternal life. Each person must examine who this person Jesus is and choose whether to accept and believe in him or to reject him. It doesn’t matter where you are from, where you were born or who your relatives are; we all have that choice. God’s relationship with us through Jesus is not manmade religion but an offer from heaven.