I wonder how many people in my religious culture have, over the years, viewed their commitment to Christ and Christianity as a fire insurance policy against the possibility that they might just end up in the hell they have been convinced may be their eternal future otherwise? I wonder this because I have heard some, and serious Christians among them, questioning the value of being a Christian at all if there was to be no such place as hell.
I strongly suspect that many commit themselvs to such an ‘Eternal Insurance Policy’ for this very reason – and then try and work out the minimum commitment involved in keeping up their payments.
In addition, others think that keeping in with their church and its leaders will somehow earn them brownie points that will go towards extended cover. I have actually met people who have been honest enough to admit this – in particular the assurance that they will be awarded a decent Christian burial when the inevitable day comes.
The truth is that this concept is totally alien to the terms of the Policy. Indeed some would be well advised to read the small print of the agreement in order to make sure they know what it is they are actually signing up for in the first place. One thing is sure – a nod and a wink to some formula or set of insurance doctrines is no insurance at all and the penny in the plate every Sunday is of little use either.
I think the tragedy of it all is that after having made a ‘profession of faith’ or having been ‘converted’ many people imagine that’s all there is to it. There is nothing left to do but to sit back and wait for heaven. If ever an insurance policy was null and void it must be this one.
So, if not to be saved from hell, what is the point of it all? Indeed, if not for this, why did God become a man, why did Jesus have to die, why did he descend into hell and why did he rise again? All very good questions, to which, even if we could give a definitive answer, it would take a very long time to explore. However, we can say with certainty that Jesus did not come, nor did he die, primarily to save us from hell. Rather he came to open the way to reunion with his Father!
Fr. Stephen Freeman summarises the whole issue very well –
Sin, at its root, is the lack of union with God. God, who is the Lord and Giver of life, is also the source of human existence and our well-being. In our brokenness, we have fallen from true communion with God, and so we die. Instead of moving towards greater and greater communion with God, we move further from God and all things around us. We experience alienation, death, corruption and Hades.
It is for this reason that God became man. He united Himself with us, taking our very own human nature into Himself. His union is so complete that, ‘Emptying Himself’ of Divine privilege, He enters into our death and the very depths of Hades, filling all things with His divine life. He makes possible our saving union with Him.
When we view the Bible through the lens of ‘union’ we start to see it everywhere. Phrases that litter the New Testament, such as – ‘In Christ’, ‘In Him’, ‘In Me’ and ‘Communion’, all point to this one fundamental truth – we were made for union with God – and to restore that union, broken by rebellion, Jesus came, Jesus died and Jesus rose again!
He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me.
Jesus (John 6:56-57)
One of the most common phrases in the writings of St. Paul is ‘in Christ’. It appears some 73 times in his letters.
Stephen Freeman again –
Our relationship is something that is best described by being ‘in Him.’ Elsewhere, the New Testament will describe this relationship as ‘Koinonia’ (communion). To be in Him, is to not be outside of Him. It is to dwell within the fullness of Christ Himself. It is to be in Him such that nothing of who we are is outside of Him.
‘If any man is in Christ, there is a new Creation’ (2 Cor. 5:17). Thus whatever we are in Christ, we are not what we were, but increasingly what we shall be.
Consider Arthur Futureproof (not his real name) for a moment. Arthur is 25 and has just met the girl of his dreams, Grace, who is 18. Arthur is quite open about his intention to marry – but his reasons, not apparently strange at all to him, seem a little odd to others. Arthur wants to marry Grace so that in his old age he will have someone to tend to all his needs. He is quite happy if they live apart during most of their their married life – as long as Grace is there when required – especially when he grows old and she will be needed to look after him. Strange? Yes indeed, just as strange as the way some people treat Jesus. Of course we would consider Arthur weird, to say the least, as most young men and women marry for love – to be together, to be united with one another and to enjoy one another’s company. Quite so.
In the book of Revelation we see a picture of Jesus standing knocking at the door of the church in Laodicea (an ancient city in what is today Turkey). It is obvious he is outside – perhaps even unwelcome. The reason for his coming is quite clear for he declares –
‘If any of you hear My voice and open the door, then I will come in to visit with you and to share a meal at your table, and you will be with Me.’
(Rev 3:20 TV)
In other words his desire is for union and communion. Perhaps the church was too busy discussing their insurance policy – I don’t know. However, I strongly suspect Jesus still stands pleading outside the door of many a life and church.