I remember growing up and believing myself to be the face of future Christianity. I thought I was going to be a Seventh-Day Adventist pastor. I wore my GOD DOESN’T BELIEVE IN ATHEISTS t-shirt, listened to Petra, Michael W. Smith, and DC Talk sing songs like “I Am On The Rock,” “Place In This World,” and “Jesus Is Still Alright With Me.”
I got out of the pool during swim practice and left my teammates like a good Adventist at Sundown each Friday. I didn’t drink or party with my friends. I had a HE LOVES ME bumper sticker on the back of my 1980 Toyota Corolla right next to an anti-abortion bumper sticker. I read Christian books, attended Christian youth conferences, and even spoke sermon-style to a group of church members at a vespers meeting.
But, there were some issues that weighed heavily on me at that time. They were issues that would continue to weigh on me for years to come: What was I supposed to think about my dear grandparents who loved me, provided breakfast for me each morning before college classes, co-signed a loan for me to buy a car, but, didn’t attend church? What was I to think about the Contemporary Christian Music artists that I so avidly adored and that I perceived to be so sincere, but, in reality were no better than I? Or, wait a minute, maybe they were better. Maybe they were closer to God. No. That can’t be right. They weren’t Seventh-Day Adventists! What about babies born in China or third-world aboriginal cultures where they will never hear about Jesus? Are they going to hell just because they didn’t have the technology to get the Billy Graham broadcast that included an altar call? What about those friends of mine who, though they taught me to get drunk, smoke cigarettes, and do other things I shouldn’t do, also taught me what it meant to have somebody I could rely on?
The truth is that God’s grace surfaces in so many different forms throughout our lives. Nobody in this world is as they should be. We are all lost: The condescending Christian that responds to your apology with an I-told-you-so-type attitude. The Pope, Ellen G. White, Ghandi, John Lennon, Trent Reznor, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Billy Graham, Michael Jordan, Paris Hilton, Bono, Tony Blair, my in-laws, and myself.
If any of us had to lay our hope in our own pathetic efforts to be good, attend church services, pay tithe, perform rituals, or argue our way into heaven, we would all face eternal seperation from God. I don’t know if there is an eternal Hell or if all the damned just cease to exist. What I do know is that our only hope is in God’s grace. His grace and his Love far supercede any church doctrine, any liturgy, any papal mandate, and any governmental law. The Creator knows the hearts of those who have never heard the gospel and He knows the hearts of those who have heard, but, persistently deny the gospel. His justice will be served.
Its strange indeed that anybody on earth would have the audacity to try to outwit God. Instead, I admit my flawed self. I concede that my own direction will only lead to pain for myself and those around me. My hope rests in my faith. My faith built on His grace. God offers his fatherly, unconditional, loving, eternal acceptance to me. I accept it. I pray that you do, too.