Over and over, I hear from modern Christians that the most important thing in being a Christian is to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior (or some similar wording). When I then ask why this is so important, I invariably get Romans 5 or 10 or John 3; and once in a while I’ll get a glancing reference to an actual Gospel.
But something about these answers always bothered me and I eventually figured out what it was. It was during one such discussion that I realized the gentleman with whom I was speaking was foremost concerned with his own salvation.
Huh. That seems awfully self-serving.
“But Tom, Jesus tells us that’s what we’re supposed to do.”
Does he, Sunshine? Where? Not in John 20 – he’s just saying that those who believe without seeing are happier – not more saved. Not in Luke 23 – he’s just giving props to the guy who pointed out that Jesus wasn’t guilty of any real crime. In Matthew 16, he kinda/sorta agrees with Peter when Peter states that Jesus is the Son of God… but nothing about accepting him as a personal savior.
And then there’s good old, misunderstood, over-quoted John 3. “…the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
It’s a beautiful verse. Everyone who believes may have eternal life. All ya gotta do is belieeeeve! So all that stuff in the Sermon on the Mount about doing unto others and the greatest commandment – that’s all not important? I can be a dick to everyone my whole life as long as before I die I “accept Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior”.
“Yes, Tom. God’s forgiveness, through Jesus Christ his Son, is infinite and doesn’t conform to our worldly standards.”
Uh-huh. Well I certainly hope that’s true, Sunshine. I’m going to need a lot of forgiveness. I just don’t think it’s as easy as people like to pretend it is.
If you think it makes sense, you can go on believing it’s about that one rule. But I’m pretty sure that’s exactly the kind of hypocrisy Jesus attacked throughout most of the Gospel. He made it pretty clear that there is one greatest commandment: Love God, Love your Neighbor. Nothing about accepting him as your personal Lord and Savior. In fact, in Matthew 23:12 he tells us it’s forgivable to speak against him.
Claiming there is one man-made rule that is more important than Jesus’ own commandment is exactly the kind of hypocrisy Jesus saw in the Pharisees.
Jesus gives us a clear top commandment – which is all about loving others. He specifically does not mention self-love, self-redemption, nor Jesus-worship. But much of modern Christian teaching is centered on what we need to do to be personally saved. Shouldn’t I be less concerned with my own eventual salvation and more concerned with how to love my neighbor today?
If you’re not sure. Go back and read the Gospel of Matthew, especially chapters 5 through 7.
If you’re still not sure, you might consider applying for membership as a Modern Pharisee.