I regularly pass a Lutheran church that has one of those signs to communicate various sayings to those driving by. The latest question on the sign reads, “Eternity has two choices. Which one will you choose.” The assumption obviously is that the two choices are heaven and hell. The other assumption is that a choice is made by how one lives their life and/or believing or not believing that Jesus is your savior.
There is an irony in this sign being in front of a Lutheran church. Lutheran doctrine teaches that we are saved by grace through faith. Some might say that faith is a choice. But this doctrine says it is a gift. So is the choice that we make whether to accept grace or not? Lutheran doctrine says no, but many Lutheran pastors preach yes. The fact is that Lutheranism comes so close to universalism (all people are saved) but avoids it. We are not to judge who has been given the gift, but we are responsible for sharing the gospel message so others will receive the gift through hearing the Word of God.
There are many churches whose doctrine is exactly what the sign says. Pastors preach that you need to make a choice and accept Jesus as your Savior. There is a passage in Matthew that seems to support this.
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me. ’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you? ’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me. ’ Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me. ’ Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you? ’ Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me. ’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life. Matthew 25:31-46
This passage is only found in Matthew. For some scholars it actually being the words of Jesus is questionable because of this and other reasons. Instead it was addd by the author because of what he wanted to communicate. He is much like the preacher that tells you that you are saved by your good works.
Some pastors promise a good life filled with wealth, cures and success. I think they are more concerned with their wealth and success. The more you give them, the more you’ll be blessed.
As for me. I’m a universalist all the way. The sign in front of the church frustrates me. For me the question is mute. And it takes people away from what is really important: trying to live a good life because it is the right thing to do. If we do the “right” thing to earn salvation, we are doing it out of self interest. We are all saved by God’s grace. Salvation is taken care of for us. No need to worry about it. Again, try to live a good life which includes caring for “the least of these” because it is the right thing to do.
I could say a lot more on the subject of salvation and the passage I shared, but I’d rather read your thoughts. I’m sure we’ll come back to this topic again.
Please stay on topic.