Hunches, hopes, hints about grace
Question: If we are saved by God’s grace and yet we continue to turn our back on God, i.e., we don’t practice our faith, we don’t pray, we don’t read God’s word, we continue to repeat the same sins over and over, etc. if we die are we saved or did we fall short of God’s grace? Ref: Hebrews 10:26-31
This is why theologians get paid the big money [insert ironic chuckle here].
We are supposed to know what is going to happen when we die and why.
Let me be straight up and, on behalf of a whole bunch of us, say: We don’t. For sure. We have hunches, we have hopes, we have hints, but we don’t really, really know.
It’s tricky, right? There are texts that can really scare the dickens out of a person. Take a look at the one you mention: Hebrews 10:26-31.
And why stop there?
Of course, other texts aren’t so frightening, and actually suggest a wider door.
Of course, each of these texts are bound to the verses before and after it, and bound by the author’s historical context, and many can be interpreted a number of ways.
My point here is that the Bible (in the cases listed above, the New Testament) isn’t as monolithic as one might believe.
Not that it is a huge surprise for those who read my blogs carefully, but I am of the mind that the question of what happens after we die is largely a theological question, and that in the end, we have to humbly say that we don’t know…and that we will not be paralyzed by that notion.
The way in which you phrase your thoughts, however, raises some interesting questions. You begin by saying that “If we are saved by God’s grace….” and close by wondering if we can “fall short of God’s grace.”
My immediate thought is, saved from what?
My second thought is, what is grace?
And my first answer to the first thought is, sin.
And my first answer to the second thought is, the gift of something undeserved.
And so two theological questions:
If we really believe that God offers grace (an undeserved gift) to we who sin (namely we who reject God in favor of something else) then:
1. isn’t the demand to repent, to stop the sin, to pray, etc…..aren’t these all acts to make us deserving of grace? And along side of that (this doesn’t cut into my two questions, btw! ), then what is grace, really? Can we fall short of something we don’t deserve in the first place?
2. Who doesn’t sin, and (again, still part of the same question!) who is aware of all the ways in which one sins? Is it ever possible to confess and repent of all our sins?
These are just beginning questions. Then begins a whole run of ‘em.
Are all sins choices, or could there be sinful behaviors which are bound up in mental illness, in fatigue, in family systems?
Do we really want to say that only Christians are going to heaven…and does even Scripture make that case?
Is this a slippery slope to universalism?
And if “all people get into heaven,” then what’s the point of believing?
Ah, but then there are counter-questions:
Like, if a person believes to get into heaven, isn’t the integrity and authenticity of the belief self-serving, since it appears to be motivated by a protecting one’s own eternal hiney?
When does one believe “enough” to be in God’s good graces?
Is there anyone who is purely good? And even if not entirely good, are there parts of people which are fundamentally good, and then are those parts not in need of salvation….and what would that mean?
But don’t good deeds matter somehow?
And yet if we say that they do, then don’t we say that we in part can save ourselves?
And what happens if we’ve lived a pretty good life, and in the moment that we allow ourselves to wonder these sorts of things, get hit by a car? What is going to be God’s final answer?
Regardless of how one comes down on the question of heaven/hell, salvation/damnation, this much is safe to assert is true:
If one says that they believe in God, then there are implications for how they live their lives, for the choices that they make.
We all mess up, sometime quite gloriously, even those who say that they–and in fact really do–believe.
There’s a reason why we have the word “grace,” in other words. We need it.
But generally, if one says that something is core to who they are, then they live life consistent to that notion: not to get something, but because they can’t help but to live in such a fashion.
I tell my husband that I love him not to get him to love me, but because I love him. I play with my kidlets not to get them to respect me, but because I adore them.
Actions are an expression, in other words.
And let it not be missed that some of the most life-giving people are those who are not connected to any one particular religious tradition.
So the point is not to “diss” confessing and repenting and praying and discerning what is faithful and striving to live accordingly.
The point is to rather raise the question about whether these are pre-reqs for salvation…and if we answer that they are, well….who doesn’t fall short of that?
It’s all clear…as mud.