Salvation through Love
Aug 12, 2000
One of the most difficult issues that human beings have had to deal with is the lack of knowledge about life after death. Since few of us have visited the other side and returned, we are left with our imagination and our faith.
Religious people are perhaps more secure than most in their confidence that the next world does indeed exist. However, their views about the nature of the next world, and the status of their own futures in it, are so varied that reaching a consensus has been difficult and confusing.
Many religious people are absolutely confident that they will sit at the right hand of God, or dwell in Paradise, or sing with the angels. Yet, can we have confidence that we'll end up where we want to be, when we read of many religious people (other than ourselves, of course) who express fervent confidence in their religious position while simultaneously conducting their lives in ways that seem ungodly? If they're confident of their salvation in the midst of sin, can we ourselves be confident? There is an apt phrase for this woeful state of human existence. It's called 'pig happiness' - a blissful wallowing in odoriferous mud, all the while convinced that it's delightful.
Christians have a unique view that the route toward Heaven is a process of receiving the gifts of grace and rebirth by grafting one's lineage to God through a relationship of faith with the sinless Son of God, as is illustrated by the verse in John 3:3 that says, 'Unless one is born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God.'
However, one's life of faith after rebirth is a process open to great discussion and interpretation. If one believes in Christ, and professes rebirth, is one automatically destined to sit at the right hand of God? Does one's conduct in life have anything to do with one's seat in Heaven? When the disciples, James and John, asked Jesus to let them sit at his right hand and left, Jesus responded by saying that it was not for him to grant, but that greatness required a life of service.
Thus, one would think that the quality of our life after rebirth will influence our destination in the after life, or spiritual world. We read in James 2:17 that 'faith, by itself, if it has no works, is dead.' Works can be a confusing topic. When we focus on works, it's possible to compare our works with the works of others, either for our own glory, or as a confirmation that we may be bound for hell, if our works are less than adequate. Does this mean that salvation is a numbers game? That the one who has the most works will get the best seat? Mighty works in the name of God don't necessarily indicate that one is close to God, or motivated by a pure heart. Then where will faith and works get us, in the final moments of our life?
Works tend to be assessed as visible activities that one can categorize. Service is indeed valuable, but what of the man who ladles soup for his neighbor while cursing him in his heart? 1 John 3:14 says that 'He who does not love abides in death.' Can we not say that a prerequisite for a work of faith to be acceptable is that the work must be a labor of love?
John went on to say, in 1 John 4:12, that 'If we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.' If we reach the point in our life of faith where God lives in us, it would be natural to assume that we have arrived at our destination of salvation. 1 John 4:16 states that 'God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.' From this point of view it's clear that the process of life after rebirth must center on love.
Leading a religious life centered on love, rather than just faith, or works, will ultimately fulfill both faith and works. We do good works in order to participate with God in his love for the world and to bring fulfillment to his prayer that the Kingdom of God will be created on Earth as it is in Heaven. Religious people have often lost sight of the purpose of their works. Unless their activities are conducted with love and compassion for others, the work becomes hollow and less than valuable.
Our destination and 'place' in the spiritual world are important elements in our concept of salvation. No one following the path of rebirth and salvation wants to dwell in a dank and gloomy mud puddle in the after life. So, we proceed with faith and do good works. However, after the all important transformation of our lineage through the process of rebirth, the restoration of the quality of our love needs to take center stage in our quest for Heaven. Since God created us in his image and likeness, we would like our hearts of love to resonate in harmony with God's feelings toward his children. Until our hearts are resonating with God’s transcendent love, like a beautiful tuning fork, then our life of works and faith is incomplete. Why? Simply because we want to abide in God and want God to abide in us, when we enter the spiritual world.
Knowing the value of love, our hearts may quail at the thought of death if we're very conscious of the tiny amounts of love that we express in our daily life. Our hearts our immature -- to say otherwise would be foolish if we compare the quality of our love to the quality of the love that God has expressed to the world. Knowing that, it's not easy to have confidence in our own salvation. How often, on a daily basis, do we 'abide in death' because our hearts have separated momentarily from the source of love?
It's easy to fall into the trap of self-flagellation - the very opposite of pig happiness. When our conscience is strong, we may despair at our sin, or develop self-hatred because we know that we're still so far from God. With self-hatred and guilt racking our souls, we are left with fear of what the after life will bring. It is then that we must renew our commitment to live our lives centered upon love. As 1 John 4:18-19 says, 'There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and he who fears is not perfected in love. We love, because he first loved us.'
Belief in God's love for us is not easy. Lucifer, the liar from the beginning, and his legions of arrogant minions, first destroyed our love, and then accused us of falling into their trap. We inherited the evil legacies of insecurity and fear, and often can't see any reason why God should love us in our seemingly pathetic situations.
Reflection, and deep meditation about our life, can help us understand God in new ways. Romans 1:19-20 stated that 'what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made.' It seems like a simple formula, but investigating God's heart by extrapolating the characteristics present in his creation is a powerful and inspiring process. Our own characteristic of parental love toward our children, by the above definition, had to be created in us by a God who also has parental love toward us, as his children. Otherwise, he wouldn't have been able to instill parental love in us.
Matthew 7:9-11 stated it clearly, in the verse, 'Or what man of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him?'
If we feel parental love toward our own children, then we can know of a surety that God feels parental love toward us. If that were not true, then we would have to conclude that our love is of a higher quality than God's, which would simply not make sense, for where would our love have come from? From the rocks and dust of evolution?
If God feels parental love toward us, and if our destiny is to have God abide in us, then it is entirely appropriate and healthy to look at ourselves the way that God does -- in a parental way. When we're depressed about our sin and deficiencies, we can step back and unite our viewpoint with God's and look down at ourselves, and say, 'Keep going. Try again. Love once more. Be patient.' We treat our children this way, so why is it so hard to match and understand God's parental love toward ourselves? This viewpoint is clearer than the expression, 'You have to love yourself before you can love others,' which could be misinterpreted, and taken in a selfish direction.
With parental love toward ourselves, we can spur ourselves to match God's love toward others, and constantly stimulate ourselves to serve more, give more and love more. With God's parental love toward ourselves, we'll be as kind and patient toward ourselves as we are toward others, and encourage ourselves to pray and repent and go forward in our daily life to express God's transcendent love toward each person that we meet.
Love could not be love if it wasn't fair. Heaven's door is never closed to those who become loving. God wants to save everyone, and thus encourages each person to love more. If an evil person repents and begins to love others with unselfish love, then by definition that person begins to draw closer to God, leaving evil behind.
By constantly trying to love more and give more, our natures will begin to change, and over time, our rebirth in God's love will grow to maturity, until the love streaming from our hearts is as bright as a newborn star. It will take many years, and may not be finished until we are already living in the spiritual world with our spouse and family and many friends, but one day, we'll be able to hear God say that all the lead and dross in our character is gone, and has been replaced with the purest liquid gold.
As Solomon wrote, 'Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it.' Our love will become a burning, passionate fire of love because of our commitment to the prayer of love and because of the infinite power of God's true love. Our salvation through love will happen because God himself has willed it so. And who are we to argue with God?
Peter Falkenberg Brown is passionate about writing, publishing, public speaking and film. He hopes that someday he can live up to his favorite motto: “Expressing God’s kind and compassionate love in all directions, every second of every day, creates an infinitely expanding sphere of heart.”