Is a Christian someone who follows Jesus or is it someone who is going to go to heaven when they die? That question might be more important than you know. The answer to that question might have something to do with how you talk about faith.
Maybe this is the trouble with alter calls and the conversion based gospel. Perhaps the implied definition in these things is that Christians are just "forgiven" or "saved" or are going to heaven when they die. That is what a Christian is and therefore that is what they do. How they live, and who they are becoming is incidental. We just have to get "sin" out of our lives so we look good for Jesus when he comes. What we don't do, what we refrain from is only important insofar as it proves to us that we are indeed going to heaven. What we actually do can't be seen as to important otherwise we'll have a "works" based salvation.
But What if going to heaven is the incidental part? What if how we live is really what makes us Christians. Perhaps, indeed, the things we do, our works, have nothing to do with going to heaven but being a Christian doesn't have anything to do with going to heaven either.
What if we really saw Christianity as discipleship? Would life after death still be the goal or would life here and now, becoming more and more like Jesus, be the ultimate goal? Would it be more important to go to heaven or to bring heaven here? Would it be more important to stay away from sin or to respond to injustice? Is Christianity about discipleship or heaven-bound-ness?
Perhaps if we saw Christianity as being about discipleship it would change the whole way we talk about heaven and the mission of the church.
Great post. Really good ideas. It is so easy to be concentrated on the status of our salvation rather than working to bring Heaven here.
Our own salvation seems to much more selfish, but easier, in comparison in working to bring Heaven here. But if more people, including myself, viewed being a Christian as discipleship, the world would become a much better place.
Again, really great post. =)
I would say that heaven is incidental to some extent--it did exist before humanity after all.
While I shy away from the term, 'discipleship', you probably know that I tend to lean towards synergism (understanding belief as an act/work/participating event0, but I go further...Crying, "Lord, Lord," cannot complete my theology of justification. And I do not see justification as completely disconnected from salvation. But you probably know that...interesting(ly good) string of posts here Wes...it's been a while since I've been able to swing by.
I agree. I grew up in a church environment that equated works with cursing. I think that mode of "heaven is the point" declaration of the gospel has made for a very anemic generation of Christians. I think this quote by Marcus Borg is apropos:
"Moreover, when you think about it, faith as belief is relatively impotent, relatively powerless. You can believe all the right things and still be in bondage. You can believe all the right things and still be miserable. Believing a set of claims to be true has little transforming power."
The Church must once again realize and own up to, the privileged responsibility given to us in the "Great Commission" and start “making” disciples not converts. There is no greater joy than helping others to walk in a deep love relationship with God through Jesus Christ!
It is truly about the “here and now” not “then and there” - carry on brother…
Thanks all for the comments! I especially enjoyed Andrew's Borg quote. Do you know where that quote comes from?
Thanks Wag for the comment. Great stuff! I hope you'll be around again.
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