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Being good for good’s sake is its own reward

POSTED: February 6, 2012 9:22 a.m.

In addition to its love affair with wealth and power, the other problem with fundamentalist religion, including fundamentalist Christianity, is its insistence that some people will spend eternity in hell.

Committed to the letter of scripture rather than the spirit of scripture, fundamentalists use ancient fears and medieval hermeneutics to promote religious ideas that confuse and divide. The real needs of humanity are ignored and even exploited.

Our basic problem (our sin) is our various addictions. Some are addicted to drugs or sex, but most Americans are addicted to money and what it represents and buys. The Bible insists the love of money is the root of all evil. Jesus said far more about the danger of money than he did about the danger of hell.

But instead of focusing on the freedom from our addictions (salvation) that Jesus brought to everyone, fundamentalist religion promotes an us vs. them mentality in which a wrathful God punishes those who challenge their particular belief system. We believe right, they believe wrong. We're going to heaven, they're going to hell.

The Christian good news (gospel) is this: God loves the entire human race unconditionally. He will finally heal our addictions. His grace will finally set us free from our primary addiction, which is self. We will all finally learn to love and be loved. Heaven, and all it represents, will someday be a reality for everyone.

As Christianity has always taught, heaven is not something we deserve or earn. Like life itself, heaven is a gift. So if God is love and heaven is a gift, how can a loving God withhold that gift from anyone?

Jesus said: When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all men to myself. Paul wrote: God has consigned all men to disobedience that he may have mercy on all in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. The Bible is not afraid of the word "all."

Some will argue that universal salvation will remove any motive for being good. If we're all going to heaven, why try to be good? Of course, people who think this way don't understand the essence of being good. Being good is not a sacrifice you make for some future reward. Being good is the reward. Being good is not the price someone pays for heaven; being good is an act of God's amazing grace that is heaven.

Because God is love, he has promised to make us all good, take us all to heaven. Hell is what happens temporarily as that process runs its course until we learn to love and be good.

Some do not believe in heaven or hell. They could be right, but the hope offered by healthy religion, including Christianity, is that heaven is real. Addiction and death will not have the final word love will.

One final question to my fundamentalist friends: if God's love does ultimately save everyone, will you be disappointed?

Alan Shope
Oakwood



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