'Point of Reference' with Fred Price
Originally posted on 05/23/2003
In a desire to be sensitive and considerate of others' feelings and the sacrifice of people who go above and beyond the call of duty, we at times make allowances that we shouldn't. For those who perform particularly hard or dangerous jobs we often overlook bad behavior as if it were a perk of that job; after all, their work is demanding, with the possibility of injury or death - let them shoot off a little steam. And when lives are indeed lost in the course of doing their duty, we instantly accord them a place in heaven.
I don't begrudge anyone performing a hazardous job more pay or an understanding of stress and its need for release, but to excuse bad behavior or accord unwarranted entrance to heaven is uncalled for, unscriptural and dangerous. In reading about the tragedies of our recent past, whether the Oklahoma City bombing, 9/11, the Columbia disaster or war in Iraq, much has been made of the heroism of men and women of the police and fire departments, NASA and the military, as well as the civilian casualties.
Let me hasten to say that I believe in giving honor where honor is due, even to those unbelievers among these groups. All joined their respective organizations with the realization that their jobs included a dangerous element and accepted the positions anyway. That in and of itself is somewhat heroic and even though they were trained and provided for financially, many never fully realized the potential for death until confronted with the circumstances they ultimately faced. We as a nation should hold them in high esteem, honoring the sacrifices of the living and dead; doing all we can to console and care for the loved ones left behind.
But should we never challenge the concept that everyone who succumbs to a heroic death is automatically received into heaven regardless of faith or belief? Do all good people go to heaven? I believe as Christians we must carefully, sensitively and with consideration to timing and the sorrow of people's loss, question the veracity of this belief. If we don't, we perpetuate a lie and allow people to soothe their consciences and prolong indecision to a point of no return.
God's word declares that, "There is no one righteous, not even one;..." for, "All have turned away,..." and, "...have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,..." (Romans 3:10, 12, 23) A sobering thought, but good news quickly follows. We are or can be - "...justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus." Romans 3:24
A person is welcomed into heaven as a result of accepting God's salvation offered through Jesus Christ, his atoning work on the cross and resurrection from the dead. The Bible is clear that no one gets to heaven as a result of being a "good" person (Isaiah 64:5, 6), no matter how good they are. All of our wishful thinking will not change what God has said, that a person must accept salvation on His terms, not ours.
What's at issue here? Why deal with such a controversial topic at all? Because if the idea persists and continues to spread that Jesus Christ is not the only way to heaven, which our Bible clearly states in Acts 4:12, "Salvation is found in no one else,..." and John 14:6, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the father except through me.", then Satan will have succeeded in blinding people to God's truth and way. For if national heroes don't need the cross, then maybe nobody else does either.
At times, I believe even we Christians hope goodness is all that is really required - so we don't need to feel guilty over not sharing our faith or confronting people with the truth found in the gospel. As a result, we lose our sense of urgency and become complacent about sharing our faith, about rescuing the unbeliever from hell.
We need to be diligent in our witness and passionate about reaching out to people who don't know Christ, doing all we can to share the good news that everyone can be saved; if they believe that Jesus is the son of God (Matthew 16:13-17), confessing him as Lord and Savior (1 John 1:9), calling on him in acknowledgement and obedience (Romans 10:13; Matthew 7:21), and being baptized into him (Acts 2:38).
We must not perpetuate a lie by falling victim to its appeal or by failing to challenge it when we hear it. We need to, "Always be prepared to give an answer (or defense) to everyone who asks (or needs to hear) you to give the reason for the hope that you have." Doing so, "...with gentleness and respect." (1 Peter 3:15)