Everybody Needs Jesus? Maybe Not.
If you're a Christian, you've probably heard that a hundred times over. After all, the Bible did say "God so love the WORLD that He sent His only begotten Son, so that WHOEVER believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life" and "ALL have sinned and fall short of God's standard" - implying that ALL of us are in need of salvation.
So everybody does need Jesus.
Alarms are probably going off in your head now. But before you scream blasphemy! and hit the "next" button, allow me to clarify.
I had a chat with a friend recently. We were just talking about food but it later led to a conversation about karma and merits. My friend holds to a Buddhist view of certain things. Currently she is on a vegetarian diet and will continue to do so for another 100 days. The main purpose of this diet plan is so she could transfer more merits to her mother who had just passed away. According to the Buddhist master at the wake, abstaining from meat of any kind helps generate merit that one can either apply to one's life or transferred to another. In the case of her mother, the more merit she receives the smoother her passage in the afterlife and the higher her chances for a better rebirth. The aim is to acquire enough merits to off-set as many bad karma as possible. At this point, I see how the strive to get out of a bad karmic cycle can open doors to God's redemptive grace.
Our conversation went something like this.
"What if there is someone who can transfer all the required merits to us?"
"Hah...if there is such a person, he better not forget us."
"Actually I do know of someone who is giving away merits. In fact, I have received mine from him."
"Haha....good for you."
"Oh but the offer is not just for me. It's for anyone who wants it. He has more than enough to give away."
"Actually it can never be enough."
"But he does have enough to cover everyone. In fact, he over-paid mine."
"But how do you know?"
"If I received it you mean?"
"Well....if someone gives you a gift and you accept it.... then it's yours. You would know because you accepted it yourself."
"Ahh... I see what you mean."
We were cut off abruptly by a system failure as we were chatting over MSN. If we had not, I imagine our conversation would continue this way.
"But how do you know if it's for real and what he has transferred to you is sufficient?"
"That, unfortunately, is something you will have to believe. You have to believe that the offer is real and trust him when he says he has overpaid your debt. If you can't believe it, you won't accept it; how then can you receive it?"
"But isn't that a risk?"
"Of course it is.... but so does everything else. Do you think for a moment that your own ways to generate merit for yourself and your loved ones are any less risky? Doesn't it also hangs on the belief that what you do is indeed what is required and that they will be sufficient? You said it yourself that it can never be enough. So what is there to loose?" (*)
I do not know what my friend thought about our conversation. If she had the slighest interest in the offer, it did not show. I do not know her reasons.
I live in a multicultural and multireligious nation. I have friends from different worldviews - formed both by their religion and their culture. I enjoy listening to their diverse beliefs because they help me explore my own. It can be a very enriching experience. I like to ask questions that encourage us to think because I realize a lot of us (christians and myself included) don't really give much thought to what we believe. It is all done in the spirit discovery and to challenge assumptions rather than to convert minds. I respect conflicting beliefs though I might not agree with them.
In the course of my conversations with these friends and also from my own experience in the past (my former worldview was of buddhist-taoist-asian-chinese influence), I discovered some of the reasons why Jesus might not be for everyone after all and why not everyone wants his offer of redemption. For the sake of brevity, I shall keep it within the context of karma and merits.
- What bad karma? LIFE COULDN'T BE ANY BETTER.
- We want to achieve it (gain merits) on our own because we believe IT IS POSSIBLE and more HONORABLE.
- We believe, with the merits transferred from others, coupled with our own, IT IS POSSIBLE.
- We know we CAN'T, but is willing to accept the consequences if we fall short.
- We know we CAN'T, but is not fully aware of the implications nor it's seriousness if we fall short.
- We know we CAN'T, but do not want to "owe" God any favors.
- We know we CAN'T, but thought accepting help from God is a sign of weakness or failure, though we are willing to accept it (ie. transfered merits) from man.
- We think that God's offer of salvation by faith alone is TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE.
- We believe there are OTHER BETTER WAYS.
- We just DON'T CARE.
I know this doesn't settle well with our spirit because we love our friends and family and want to see them saved. But as true deciples of Jesus, we must recognize each other's right to choose, no matter how much we think they got it wrong. God himself recognizes it. Jesus had never coerced anyone into believing. He states the facts plainly, makes his offer and lets them decide for themselves.
(*) If everything hinges on faith, how do we know which one is true? On what basis should we belief in one instead of the other? These are questions christian apologits have been trying to answer. I hope to post something with regards to this in due time. Stay tuned.