Christians do a great job of judging the state of other people’s souls. We’re mind readers, really. We know the condition of your life just by looking at the things you do. If we like the things you do, you’re obviously heaven-bound. If you do things we don’t approve of…well, you’re headed the other way. Some of things that reveal the state of your salvation? Well:
- you like beer? You’re not really saved.
- you like R-rated movies? You’re not really saved.
- you struggle with addiction? You’re not really saved.
- you have tattoos? You’re not really saved.
- you got pregnant out of wedlock? You’re not really saved.
- you got divorced? You’re not really saved.
- you voted Democrat? You’re not really saved.
- you don’t read the King James Bible? You’re not really saved.
- you smoke cigarettes? You’re not really saved.
The list of taboo things can go on and on. But in reality, most of the list really comes down to this:
You disagree with how I interpret the Bible and live a Christian life? You’re not really saved.
And that’s a shame.
The Bible is actually not as black-and-white about all of these side issues as Christians are. Salvation really comes down to faith in Jesus. Can you smoke weed and have a saving faith in Jesus? Can you vote a certain political party and have a saving faith in Jesus?
I think so.
In the end the “You’re not really saved” lists that we all have come down to us—what we dislike or disapprove of. Don’t get me wrong – the Bible does talk about sin and Christian behavior. But we seem to add a lot of things to the lists. Look at the Mark 7:
Now when the Pharisees gathered to him, with some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem, they saw that some of his disciples ate with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands properly, holding to the tradition of the elders, and when they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash. And there are many other traditions that they observe, such as the washing of cups and pots and copper vessels and dining couches.) And the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written,
“‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’
You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.”
And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition! For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ But you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his mother, “Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban”’ (that is, given to God)— then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do.”
That’s pretty powerful. Jesus tells these upstanding religious elites that they’re holding on to human traditions and letting go of God’s commandments. Won’t we be surprised when we reach eternity and find people who didn’t live the way we wanted them to live?
Might we have some good ideas about how to life a righteous life? Sure. You might have your own list of things that you feel you need to do to stay in right standing before God. There is nothing wrong with that. The Holy Spirit works in each of us at different times, convicting us of some things and freeing us to do other things. But our personal conviction, even if it’s from God, doesn’t mean that it’s supposed to be imposed on EVERYONE. Even within Christianity, there is a lot of room for Christian freedom.
Don’t get me wrong—some things are downright forbidden. Adultery is always wrong in God’s eyes. Murder is always wrong. Idolatry is always wrong. The Bible does relay to us concrete do’s and do not’s. But if it’s not specifically spelled out in the Bible, God gives us a lot of latitude to work within our consciences. It doesn’t make you less of a Christian. It doesn’t make you a better Christian.
This is actually a call to unity. We are unified as believers, even if we disagree on some of the peripheral issues. How we live out our faith on these other issues shouldn’t cause us to break fellowship with people. Our Christianity is bigger than these issues—we are united in our faith in Christ and it’s time to let go of our pet issues.
If you’ve ever had your salvation doubted because of this or other issues–I’m sorry. Christians mean well (usually), but we have a horrible way of judging anything that doesn’t fit our mold. And if you’ve ever doubted or questioned the salvation of someone else because of some behavior you disapproved of, then it’s time to repent.
The condition of someone’s salvation is really up to God.