I just heard a short video on the internet urging Christians to reach out and share the gospel to people whom you may not particularly like. The intention was good but there’s one comment by the video narrator that caught my attention when he said, “Their eternity depends on us.” I’ve heard that comment many, many times before and it’s being taught by many pastors and missionary leaders in the Christian community.
Common Gospel Belief
That statement is I believe the belief of so many Christian denominations and missions organizations that I know of and this is what drives them to go and preach the gospel because they believe the unbeliever’s “eternity” depends on them. That is, the salvation of unbelievers depend on the efforts of believers to reach out to them. The zeal and dedication to do missions and reach out to the unreached peoples of the world is admirable but the motivation that drives them is I think somewhat a little bit off.
It is my belief that our “eternity”—I take to mean that they mean “salvation”—does not depend on any of our human effort–or more particularly in this case, the believer’s or missionary’s efforts to “save” unbelievers. I believe that salvation is only through Jesus Christ as the Bible asserts. It is by God’s grace that we have been saved. God did it through Christ. It is his gift–God’s gifts to us from him.
Maybe it’s just the terminology. Maybe it’s just a motivational tool to urge Christians to go out and share the gospel. But it can be misunderstood. One large mission organization had actually made posters saying that millions are dying daily and are now in hell because Christians have not done their duty to go and preach the gospel. Really? Do unbeliever’s “eternity” really depend on us? I’d like to believe God is in-charge of that. The salvation of mankind depends on Christ. He will take care of that part.
To say that “their eternity depends on us” sounds to me like people won’t be saved without us—without human effort. It is sending a message that if Christians don’t do missions, it’s their fault that millions are “not saved.” It makes them guilty and forced to obey the great commission. It brings Christians on a guilt-trip if they don’t act. It’s a guilt-driven method of evangelism I would suppose. It is not love-driven—reaching out to people because we love them to be with the Lord.
I believe that God can save people even without us. In fact, he has already done it without us. God has already saved us. While we were still sinners Christ died for us already (Romans 5:8). All the unbeliever has to do is to accept it and believe it!
For us who are believers, Christians, pastors, missionaries and the like, ours is to participate in what God has already done and is doing. Let’s discern where and what God is already doing in and through us and let’s participate in it wholeheartedly. Let us obey God’s command to go and make disciples driven not by guilt feelings and forced to obey. Let us not think that the unbeliever’s salvation depends on us. Rather, let us go and make disciples driven by love and obedience to God and driven by love for people who are still unaware of God’s great love for all of humanity.
Our missions and evangelism should be motivated by faith, hope and love based on who God really is in Jesus Christ and who we are in him. It should not be motivated by a psychology of guilt, fear and anxiety.
People’s “eternity” depends on Jesus, not on us! Let’s participate gladly in what Christ is doing in and through us!