Once again I went to my home church for Sunday worship. Somehow I let just enough time pass that I forget exactly how uncomfortable I was the last time I was there and I keep going back. I’m not sure if it’s because I’ve been doing it pretty much every Sunday for twenty years or if it’s because I have such uncertainty, but I begin to feel guilty for not going. My guilt makes me feel uncomfortable enough to forget about the discomfort of actually going until I’m there.
Sunday School was mostly as expected. The lesson was on the empty tomb and that we have loads of “proof” that Jesus is indeed alive. Of course all of this proof is from the Bible itself. Discussion turned to what we do to share our gospel and whether we’re doing it often enough. What do we tell people who doubt the gospel accounts of virgin births and resurrections? Why, we tell them they have to believe in what they’re reading, of course! They have to have faith in the Bible.
As I sat there, mostly quiet, I thought about how much I’ve learned about the questions of the inerrancy and infallibility of the Bible. I realized just how much our culture really does play into what we believe. If you dare to question you’re just being ridiculous. How can you not believe the Bible is God’s Holy Word???? I also realized I’m becoming comfortable enough with my questions that I don’t need to challenge those in my class and stir them up. I’m comfortable enough with my doubt that I didn’t feel uncomfortable hearing them talk about their certainty. I was intrigued by how we all just assume that everyone should just follow suit, regardless of their background or culture. I saw the disbelief on the faces of those in the class who have never really researched anything else that anyone could possibly doubt the inspiration of the Bible.
The music in the worship service was excellent as always. It’s not a huge church, but the minister of music is very talented and has put together a small orchestra. I love music and no matter how far away from my original faith I might travel these are the songs I grew up on. These are the songs of my youth and they will probably always resonate with me in some way so I sing along. I probably pay more attention to the lyrics now than I ever did pre-doubt. “Because He Lives”, “Christ the Lord is Risen Today” and “Christ is Risen, Hallelujah” rang out through the church. The choir belted out “He’s Alive, He’s Alive, He’s Alive, Hallelujah!”. I’m challenged as I sing. Do I really believe this any longer? I don’t know.
The pastor takes the podium. Instead of preaching the typical Easter sermon about the empty tomb, we’re instructed to turn to John 3:16. We stand for the reading of God’s word. Pastor Mike launches into the “greatest verse in the Bible”. There are twelve words before Son in this verse and twelve words after (reading from the KJV). Everything revolves around the Son. It so fantastic because God so loved the world that he sent his son to be the substitute for our sins. The gift is unconditional. All we have to do is accept it, receive it. If he buys his child a gift but his child puts his hands behind his back and refuses to take it there’s nothing he can do about it. It’s a free gift, no strings attached. This is unconditional love.
Those who don’t accept the gift will perish. The gift is unconditional, the guarantee is not. Yes, that’s right. God’s love is unconditional, his favor isn’t. The guarantee to enjoy his favor is conditional on belief in Jesus. It has nothing to do with being a good person. This gift is extended to the murderer and the moral alike. Those who do not accept this wonderful gift will die and perish eternally in hell. It’s up to them. Don’t walk out of this place today without making a decision. God’s guarantee of an eternity with him depends on it.
Wow. Just wow. All that talk of hell would have scared the living daylights out of me two months ago. I looked around and saw the people nodding their heads. All I could think was, this isn’t right. I felt sad – sad at the bondage this is for so many. Listening to all of this from a critical viewpoint made me wonder how it is that I ever believed that a mere belief in “just the right thing” would get me a pass into heaven.
I realized as I sat there that I knew nothing of existence before I was born. I think that is the state I will return to when I die. All of this belief in an afterlife is surely just because it is so difficult for man to imagine a state in which they simply cease to exist.