Non Christians in Heaven?

Will those who are non-Christian go to heaven?
As we enter into this third week of our series on Big Questions of Faith, we tackle a particularly important question for people of faith?  Will those who are not Christian be saved?
Even as you read that question, you are probably having an internal reaction to it.  How would you answer this question?  What makes you answer in that way?  Since this question lies so close to the very center of our faith and belief, as well as having implications for how we view God’s acceptance of us, it is an important question with which to spend some time processing.
This question goes to the very heart of the Christian witness.  Over the years, I have been asked countless times by concerned members of my churches whether their friends and family will be saved.  Often, what they mean to ask is, “Does God love my child who doesn’t believe?”;  “Does God still accept my neighbor, even though they do not go to church anymore?”; or “Will God accept me if I don’t believe everything in the Bible?”  My answer is always – “Yes, God definitely loves your friends, cares about your child, and died for everyone.” 
This is the witness of the Bible – that God so loved the world that God sent Jesus for that world that God loved…for the Son came into the world NOT to condemn the world, but to save it. (see John 3:16-17)  I can confidently say that God has plenty of love for all of our family and friends, and nothing can separate us from that love (see Romans chapter 8).  Even more, God’s love and care for us began before we were even born.  While we were still in our mother’s womb, God knew our name and loved us.  (see Psalm 139).
Because of these things, I can with confidence tell people that God does love them, their family, their friends, and even their enemies. Jesus came for everyone!
Now, some of you may be saying, “Yes, but what about the people who do not believe in God, follow Jesus, or even want to be part of God’s family?”  That is a very important and valid question, since John 3:16 says, …”whoever believes in Him will be saved…”  To be honest, over the years, I have wrestled with this part of that verse, particularly as a Lutheran Christian.  My understanding is that we cannot say, do, or even believe anything on our own to make God love us more than God already does.  Therefore, I struggle with the idea that my ultimate acceptance by a gracious, merciful, and loving God is based on my ability to believe in, accept, and invite God into my life.  Of course, reconciling various verses throughout Scripture that seem to reference the need to believe in order to be saved still causes me difficulty.  If nothing else, it reminds of Jesus’ own command that we should go and baptize and teach all people.  Christians have an important job to do…we are to go and share the love of Jesus, inviting them into a relationship that will most certainly save them.  We have been given the amazing gift of God’s love through Jesus, how can we keep that gift from those who do not know him?
As I explore this question, I am thankful for the love that God has for all of God’s children.  At the same time, as I consider what will happen to those who have not heard or have rejected God’s love, I am left offering this question back to God.  God is the one who ultimately judges, not me or any other christian.  God is God, and I am not.  Jesus has offered me and all people God’s love.  Who am I to offer them condemnation and death instead?  I can tell people the truth that I believe – Jesus is the true Messiah, the Son of God, who came to live, die, and rise that I might have the gift of forgiveness, new life and salvation.  As a human being, I am accepted and made right in God’s eyes by what Jesus has done for me – not by anything that I have said, done, or even believed.  This is the faith tradition into which I was born, and which as an adult, I continue to believe and trust.  Even more, I believe that when people trust in Jesus, they will find peace, satisfaction, comfort, certainty, and acceptance.  Jesus came to save people, not only for an eternity in heaven, but also for living here and now.  Following Jesus and trusting in him has brought me life, and this will be the message that I share.  How they respond, and ultimately how God responds to them, is between them and God.
Those are my beginning thoughts…of course, I could go much deeper on this topic, filling many pages.  But, I would love to hear from you…
What do you believe about God’s love?
What other questions does this Big question stir up for you?
How have you responded to a friend or family member who does not share your faith?

2 Responses to “Non Christians in Heaven?”

  1. Mike Moore says:

    I struggle with this. I believe God is a fair judge, if you have lived your entire life without following his commandments you will be judged accordingly. If all enter the kingdom why have a church?

  2. Jenn VanVolkinburg says:

    This is just what I needed to hear as a Lutheran Christian myself. I was worried I wouldn’t recognize my loved ones where I know I’m going. Thank you.

    Peace be with you during this Advent season.

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