We attended a funeral yesterday. The deceased did not live his life as I would. He was, shall we say, a little rougher around the edges than I am. Looking in on his life one might doubt the presence of God. One might assume his eternal destiny did not include streets of gold. He was taught Christian principles as a young person, but did not live by them as an adult. He was a good guy, a good dad, a good friend, but a faithful servant of Christ?
How can you tell?
He didn't attend church. He didn't read his Bible. He drank and smoked and cussed. He made choices I wouldn't as a follower of Jesus Christ. But he was a generous neighbor, a gracious host, a loving man. Aren't these fruits of the spirit? Does that reveal the Spirit of God within him, sealing him for the day of redemption (Ephesians 4:30)?
Do we Christians place our own ideas of what a follower of Jesus should look like? If we don't see certain "characteristics," do we write people off as unsaved? I know I'm guilty. I did it with my own father, questioning his salvation because his actions did not fit my ideas of a committed believer. How and why do we elevate ourselves to this position of judgment?
Who do we think we are?
There's no way for us to know the heart of another person. We have a responsibility to display God, to draw others to Him, but only God turns on the light bulb. How do we reconcile the eternal resting place of those whose lives we question? Can we determine where they are? Is there any comfort in the passing of those whose lives we wonder about?
As I struggled through my questions concerning my dad, God gave me an unexpected epiphany. The only thing we can do is trust God and His Word. The Bible says, "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved" (Acts 16:31), "if you confess with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved" (Romans 10:9), and "Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God (John 1:12). I had conversations with my dad where he agreed with every one of those statements. Who am I to say he didn't live them out correctly? Who am I to say it wasn't enough to enter heaven?
How do you measure salvation?
We can't. We do our best to make our God visible in a hurting, dying world. We speak His Word. We share the hope within us and when people we love die, people whose lives have not fit our mold, we leave their salvation up to Him.
Do you agree? Do you differ? I'd love to hear your thoughts on this tough subject. What do you think?