Anonymous asked a question:
I have been raised in a Christian household & attended a Christian school my entire life. However, I only started taking my relationship “seriously” with God after graduating. Why did God choose ME to know of Him and place me in my aforementioned environments? What about those who live life never knowing about God? Why doesn’t God reach out to them? Since I know God, is it my duty to spread His Word? What about Catholics/Muslims etc.? Am i just blessed? But Isn’t that unfair to the nonbelievers?!
Hey my dear friend, thank you for your very sensitive gentle heart about this. As an Asian born in America, I know that I could’ve easily been a Buddhist in Korea or a Shintoist in Japan or a Confucianist in China. Or even a Communist or Marxist or Socialist. Or a tribal villager living on a Filipino island. Or one of those Tibetan monks in the mountains who only eats apricots and lives to 120.
This issue has always bothered me, as I found it rather disturbing that God would geopolitically confine Himself to one people-group for millions of years, and only recently branch out in the church era. Even then, I would think a “loving God” could offer every person an opportunity to hear about Him, at least once, if He truly loved us.
So let’s consider a few things, some which we might disagree on, which is okay. This is only from my own limited understanding of doctrine, the church, and our culture.
1) We actually have no idea how God is reaching people in the world right now.
I think a Westernized Christianese churchgoer tends to assume that evangelism is a package deal in which we make a specific offer, and if someone “accepts Jesus in my heart,” then it’s a closed deal. Like this is the only way to go. This is very much a post-Enlightenment idea in which all information must be transmitted by systematic form, line by line, until we can regurgitate it verbatim.
Yet if we think Jesus can only be shared by the confines of human language, then our view of God is much, much too small.
While I’m 100% supportive of mission teams, evangelism, and preaching the Gospel as much as possible, I think we’re limiting God when we box Him inside an academic Western checklist. The Bible makes clear that God can speak through dreams, circumstances, images, visions, and in one case, even an ass. We simply have no idea what our creative God can do with the limitless spectrum of people in this vast world.
Of course I don’t rely on this to dismiss evangelism, and at the very least, our faith must contain words. But you’ve heard those stories of isolated tribal villages that have received dreams about Jesus and are now faithful Christians, without any contact from the outside world. It could be crazy, sure, but I don’t ever want to downplay it either. And the only way to find out this happened is to visit them, and if you find out they don’t know Jesus, then dear Christian: it’s suddenly on you.
In the end, I would never put it past God to reveal Himself in an imaginative number of ways that do not fit our tiny paradigm.
2) It’s difficult to determine whether a person has “enough knowledge” to “be saved.”
I’ve always said that the Gospel is simple enough for the five year old and deep enough for the eighty-five year old. The criminal who hung next to Jesus was saved in the last minutes of his life; a man like Nicodemus who knew about God his whole life was more lost than the prostitutes and prodigal sons.
This must mean that someone who dies in a school shooting and calls out to his bare little knowledge of Jesus could be saved. A child in a tsunami or a person with Down syndrome or a man who’s lost his memories could still, at some point, understand the Gospel and not merely be saved, but safe.
I don’t mean to sugarcoat this whole thing and say that a tiny head-knowledge will work for everyone. I wouldn’t bet my life on it. I just want us to ask: How much faith is really enough to get saved? At what point must our lives prove what we really believe? Where is the cut-off for saving knowledge and how do we even determine that? Is there some point where our faith activates salvation? Or is our faith truly given by grace and more about the object of our faith than the amount?
Romans 1 tells us that God shows Himself through everything, so that none are without Him. This could be a stretch, but I might even say that God sees our faith by the grace He apportioned to each of us, so that we’re each accountable for what we individually know. A teacher who tests his students on untaught material is a bad teacher, and maybe I’m being too soft here: but I don’t believe God is a bad teacher.
3) Not just anyone goes to Hell.
Prisons aren’t built for people who don’t believe in the police. They’re built for criminals. I know this analogy is not perfect, but the concept of Hell is simply justice for those unrepentant people who’ve been a part of rape, genocide, oppression, slavery, and abuse. I’m sure it makes God sick to His stomach: but if He was not a God against injustice, then He wouldn’t be loving at all.
4) Seriously, God chose you. Which is both good news and a wake-up call.
I believe that we must absolutely rejoice that God has called us. If you’re a Christian, I hope you never get over it. The God of the universe knocked on the door of your heart and said hello, to you. This is nothing to be ashamed of or to be guilty over, because contrary to church culture, God does want us to feel good about some things. As if Christians need one more guilt-trip to be all somber and morbid on Sunday mornings. So be joyful that He chose you, my friend.
But also know: Growing up in a “Christian environment” is not the blessing we think it is. In the West, being a “Christian” is as easy as praying a scripted prayer or sitting in a pew one hour per week. In the East, being a Christian can usually get you killed in a variety of slow unpleasant ways. I’ve hardly ever met a lukewarm Eastern Christian: because their environment has already weeded out the uncommitted.
If we ever think, “Oh I’m so lucky to be a Christian in America” — we’re not only disrespecting every other country and Christian in the world by assuming a better culture, but we’re thinking WAY too much of ourselves. Certainly there are advantages to our country, but there are so many slick subtle disadvantages: which are the most dangerous kind.
Trust me on this: Most Eastern Christians are appalled at our abuse of religious freedom in America, and would laugh to tears at the entertainment culture within Western church. I don’t mean to sound like a superior snob here, but I’m saying: being an American Christian is more reason to give, share, love, and talk about Jesus, because we have the freedom to do so. I say this with all grace for you, but if you feel sorry for third-world people who might never attend church like you do, then that exposes a blinded arrogance and a wrong presumption about our “Christian nation.” We must both rejoice in our faith and be humble in our fortune.
I’m saying this because I love you more, and not less. Before we weep for some concept of the faithless person in another country, we so-called lucky Christians must first weep for ourselves. Tears of joy, yes, and tears of grieving love for our neighbors who don’t know Jesus.