Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Something Else We Aren't In Charge Of

“For the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for a denarius[a]a day, he sent them into his vineyard. And going out about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and to them he said, ‘You go into the vineyard too, and whatever is right I will give you.’ So they went. Going out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour, he did the same. And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing. And he said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard too.’ Andwhen evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first.’ And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius. 10 Now when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more, but each of them also received a denarius. 11 And on receiving it they grumbled at the master of the house, 12 saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ 13 But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? 14 Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. 15 Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’[b] 16 So the last will be first, and the first last.” - Matthew 20:1-16
In my last post I made the clear (I hope) declaration that we as human beings don't get to decide right and wrong. Right and wrong has been established from the beginning of time by the one who created everything. It only stands to reason that the one who made everything gets to set the rules for everything. Here's something else we're not in charge of...
Who is saved and who isn't.
Jesus accomplished the salvation of all humanity for all of time when he died on the cross. He defeated sin, death and the power of the devil. He declared "It is finished." And it is. 
I find myself getting increasingly agitated at the term 'the lost' when referring to other human beings who have not 'accepted Jesus as their savior.' Jesus came to seek and to save the lost. And he did. And it is finished. And all of heaven rejoiced and the curtain separating man from God and God from man was torn asunder from top to bottom.
And on Pentecost the Holy Spirit was poured out filling the followers of Christ with the power to stand in the face of horrible opposition and go to all the world with the message that Christ had accomplished salvation for all of humanity for all of time.
What if who goes to heaven and who goes to hell is none of our business?
Because it isn't any of our business.
But, but, but...what about the Great Commission? Go ye, therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey all these things I have commanded you.
Yes. Do that. Bring the love of Jesus, the power of the Holy Spirit and the proclamation of the freedom that has been given to every human being in all the world, for all of time. And stop there.
Stop telling people who's saved and who isn't. Stop determining which sins get you assigned a place in the burning lake of fire while turning a blind eye to other sins that are just as reprehensible but culturally embraced.
Given the amount of time Christians and the Church spend dissecting scripture in order to rightly determine who goes to heaven and who goes to hell and the mechanics of how it happens, it will be a very difficult challenge to let go of all of this.
But let go of it, we must. If we're to follow Jesus and do what he's called us to do, we must allow God to be God and acknowledge that we are not.
Leaving us with the Great Commission. To go and tell all the world that they have been saved by the death of Christ on the cross. They have been set free from sin, death and the power of the devil. To bring the Holy Spirit in all His Pentecost glory to people who need healing, need freedom from demons, need reconciliation, need justice, need mercy and need to know Jesus.
In the parable above workers who were called to the task early in the day were put out at the end of the day when they didn't get a better reward. This parable may be about heaven but, for me, it's more about how angry we human beings get when the owner of the vineyard doesn't let us advise him on how he should treat people. We really, really want to sit on God's advisory board when it comes to the eternal destination of others. And we want to do this not only as individuals, but as congregations, denominations and religions. It's what religion, at its root, is all about. Determining the rules for who gets God's approval and who doesn't.
And, truth be told, it absolutely pisses us off when God doesn't allow us on the advisory board...and really, really, really pisses us off when we realize God doesn't even have such a board. He makes all the decisions without a bit of input from us.
And, thank God, he does. Because I don't think any of us could have conceived of God sending his one and only son to accomplish salvation for all of humanity for all of time. That's so far beyond us that it makes it clear God's thoughts are greater than our thoughts and God's ways than our ways.
So if it's not up to us who goes to heaven and who goes to hell, what are we to do with all this time on our hands? Well, how about we go and tell every person that they are saved by Jesus Christ and bring the freedom and joy that gives us to them? Wouldn't that be wonderful? I think so. 
And when we do this, from this perspective, the way we treat other sinners...even those who are struggling to remain in their sin...changes dramatically. More about what that looks like in the next post.