Sunday, January 27, 2013

A Tightrope to Heaven?

Elizabeth worked in a weaving shop. She was quiet and competent in every way. When she learned that my wife and I were going to visit the holy land, she said she had a request. Could we find out what an object on the temple site was? It was a shelf or mantle that was free standing. She had a photo of it.

Not much later we stood at the site with Tony, our Arab Christian guide. We were able to ask him the question that concerned Elizabeth. He said that Moslems believe that this is a platform for God's scale . Some day he will weigh the deeds of his people on it. If their good deeds outweigh the bad, they be counted worthy to go to heaven.

Years before, the same idea was expressed by my sister. As we were driven to a cemetery after a funeral, someone asked if the dead person would go to heaven. My sister, nine years older than me, answered, "If they have done more good things than bad, they will go to heaven."

Many have this belief, and it has been incorporated even into our literature. Ever read The Razor's Edge? The same idea is in the title--a person walking the thinnest possible line. He carries a load of his deeds. If his evil deeds upset his balance he falls into the pit of hell. That idea alone should guarantee a person does more good than bad.

In theology this is called "auto soteriology"--self saving. In an effort to justify people, and make them earn their salvation, there are many clever ideas.

As my sister approached the end of her life, she feared she would go to hell. She said she wanted to join a church to prevent it. I had bought her a Bible. It lay on a table. I picked it up and read a little to her. She said, "That is so comforting, what you are reading." Yes it is, the Bible is a book of salvation, from Genesis to Revelation.

My family, product of a large denomination, were horribly misinformed about the grace of God. I had to learn it on my own. I tried to share the Good News with them.

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