Continuing on our list of questions from our Googling for God series, this is one of the questions that we received online.
I think this raises one particular question for me.
What is your assumption about getting to heaven? In other words, what exactly are you under the impression that it takes to get to heaven?
I think if I knew the answer to this question, I could likely best answer you. But unfortunately, we don’t have the opportunity to go back-and-forth for clarity. So, I think I’ll make an assumption here that is fairly common when I converse people on this topic: we get to heaven by performing enough good deeds and avoiding enough bad deeds.
Christians have often believed this assumption. We have often said that we have to do the right things, avoid enough of the wrong things, wear the right clothes, hang out with the right people, avoid the wrong people, and do enough of these things in order to get to heaven.
In fact, this assumption is fairly common amongst many spiritual and religious views. For some of us, we believe we have to follow all of the right laws and not break any of those laws. For some of us, we must prove that we are a good person by performing enough good deeds or acts of kindness. For others, if we perform enough spiritual rituals or acts, then God will accept us.
Most of these views predicate themselves on the action and the work of the believer. It’s up to the believer to get him or herself to heaven.
So long as our arrival in heaven depends on our personal efforts, it is going to feel hard. Will I ever be good enough? How do I know that I am good enough? What if I’m deceived into thinking I’m good enough? Will I ever be able to do everything that God demands of me?
In this situation, it IS hard to reach heaven!
Many faiths and religions run under the assumption that heaven is like a mountain. We’re all trying to be good enough to reach the top and avoid any bad things that may drag us down.
But here’s the thing that’s interesting in the Christian story: God comes down from the mountain and lifts humanity up to the top.
Christianity seems to suggest that when Jesus dies on the cross and is resurrected, he removes any and all need for us to perform ritual sacrifices, say and do the right things, and earn our way into heaven. Instead, it is all done for us.
Paul says this in Romans 3: 27-28: “Can we boast, then, that we have done anything to be accepted by God? No, because our acquittal [another way of saying reaching heaven] is not based on our good deeds. It is based on our faith. So we are made right with God through faith and not by obeying the law.”
When he’s asked by some of his followers what he expects them to do in order to be saved or reach heaven, Jesus says, “This is what God wants you to do: Believe in the one he has sent.”
I can understand why you may be under the assumption that you have to work to earn your way to heaven. That’s a pretty common assumption. But maybe you need to hear the Good News that God came down from the mountain and paid the price, so you don’t have to worry about earning enough to make your way to heaven.
Now, you simply have to trust and believe that God has done this for you; and see what life looks like when you live in that reality.
I think Jesus means it when he says in Matt. 11: 28-30: “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke fits perfectly, and the burden I give you is light.”
I hope that’s Good News to you today!