By Rev. Richard Kent Matthews
The following headline arrived in my inbox recently: Thousands Planning to Pray in New York City's Time Square
“Thousands of people of all races, cultures and backgrounds, representing churches of every denomination, will be gathering in Times Square from 3:00 to 4:00pm on [date] for Prayer in the Square, to pray for one hour to seek God's forgiveness on behalf of the nation. The one-hour event drew an estimated 18,000 to 20,000 people [last time] and is expected to draw an even larger crowd this year.”
What’s interesting to me about this headline is the idea that the individual, the nation, the world still need to beseech the Creator for some kind of forgiveness. It’s an absurd idea. Here’s why (No need to call me a heretic; I admit it freely and joyfully!):
Let’s pretend that I am a traditional Christian (which I am not). I suppose I would have to follow the traditional edict that God has to be continually forgiving the world because it continues to sin against him. After all, isn’t that what the Bible teaches? We must seek God’s forgiveness every day, every moment, because there is no health in us and we are constantly falling out of favor, no matter how hard we try to behave. Even our thoughts betray us. A little lust here, a bit of jealousy there, some envy, some anger, some bitterness. There’s no end to the nasty little behaviors, thoughts, attitudes, deeds.
Blah, blah, blah…
Now the heresy. If I were to become a Christian of any sort again (Was one for many years; woke up, thank goodness), I would be a Universal Salvationist. Reason? Well, the story goes something like this:
God creates the humans; the humans are innocent. Then, they are tempted by “the serpent.” They eat from the Tree, their eyes open, and they know good and evil, becoming, in essence, like their Creator. God even proclaims it himself: “Behold, the man has become as one of us, knowing good and evil.” (Gen. 3:22) He’ll have to kick them out of the Garden now because they may eat from the Other Tree (of Life) and live forever. Got it so far?
Since humans did this horrible thing, the only one that can save them is God himself, so he comes to earth in the form of Jesus, does his thing, is crucified, dies, then rises again on the third day. He appears to a lot of people, depending on which gospel you use as a reference, then ascends to heaven. Cased closed, world forgiven, job done. Period.
The idea that this Plan of Salvation won’t work unless you and I believe it is where Paul and the rest of church history fall flat. Why? Because God did what he did through Jesus because humanity couldn’t. Nothing we do can bring any kind of salvation, including believing in it. If Jesus actually did what Christians say he did, then humanity from beginning to end is saved and set free from any condemnation. That includes Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists (bless ‘em), Taoists, atheists, even us poor misguided New Thought ministers.
Ultimately, the work was between the Father and Son. Not between fallen humanity and God.
In the final analysis, if Jesus actually carried out his mission of salvation, it matters not what you or I believe. Jesus kept to his task. The work is complete. As he said from the cross, “It is finished.” The Curse is lifted; humanity from first person to last is redeemed.
The best part is, no one has to believe it. Now, that’s Unconditional Love.
So, if you still plan to attend the big annual forgiveness rally, enjoy. But remember this: In spite of what you or I or anyone believes, either Jesus did the work or he didn’t. If he did, all’s well. But if even one soul is lost, if one person can end up in an eternal hell, Christ’s work was—and remains—a failure.
We know that’s not true, right?
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