Jesus came into the world to teach love and forgiveness. Simple and wonderful enough. But the way to heaven? How is that? We know he died for our sins so that we will live forever if we believe in him. God loves us so much he sent his only son to die for us. This is the gift of salvation.
Do you ever wonder exactly why God needed to send Jesus? Did a vengeful God really demand a death sacrifice to settle the score for our evil ways? What parent would do that? Sure, human sacrifice was the hip thing to do thousands of years ago. The story of Abraham and his son prove that God was not happy about it. (Did you know human sacrifice is alive and well today? We sacrifice babies by the millions in order to have “better lives”.)
I think this God-of-wrath premise is exactly the point where many atheists decide that the whole God idea is too hokey. (Curiously, though, many atheists are fine with our human sacrifice of the unborn.)
I think our God-given free will is the key to understanding more about God, Jesus, and our salvation.
We Christians have this basic understanding of the bible: Old Testament = God creates and then judges the good, bad, and the ugly. New Testament = God gives his only son to save the world from sin and death–and we are promised a new heaven and a new earth when Jesus comes again. All of this is told via generations and generations of imperfect people, who often didn’t quite understand what was happening to them.
Did God expect us to be perfect from the start? Since he did create us, he’s obviously known all along that we’ve had free will. Maybe he originally had high hopes for us, that we’d get along just fine by keeping his commandments. Yeah. We totally flunked for thousands of years while he worried about us all going straight to hell.
Yes that’s what I said. Because God doesn’t send us to hell. We send ourselves there. And God worries about it. Because that’s what parents do.
How do we send ourselves to hell? By sinning of course. What is sin? Sin is anything that hurts us. Anything that hurts us is basically the result of a human-made, poor free-will choice. Every human-made choice has a consequence. In this ultimate game of endless possibilities, the Ten Commandments amazingly sum up every type of hurting each other there is.
What is hell? Hell is the miserable realm where the heaviness of our sin (emotional pain) keeps us down. Literally down.
Back to God worrying about us sinning and hurting each other. He had to do something. We weren’t going to find the way to heaven on our own. So he sends us baby Jesus, the perfect, innocent, and beautiful Prince of Peace who grows up to suffer and die under human hatred–all for you. If you use your own free will to accept this gift, eternal life is yours.
So how exactly does Jesus save us for eternity?
Jesus told us the greatest commandment: Love each other. We know this simple truth instinctively. It is the perfect magic of salvation. As we believe in and accept his love for us, we are transformed. We share this beautiful love and forgiveness with others. We shed the emotional heaviness of sin that would doom our souls to the deep and dark. We literally lift each other up to find the light of God.
We were lost and heavy. God sent Jesus–The Light and The Way–to teach us to hold hands and fly.
Now let your heart soar!