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Bringing Heaven to Earth
I think at the very basic, salvation is about faith in Jesus for the Christians and religion (Christianity, Islam, Buddhism or Hinduism) is about doing good works out of love. And how does one reconcile faith and religion. I have tried to do that for myself with this write up.
According to Jesus “those who hear My Words and believe in Him who sent Me have eternal life.”(John 5:24 TEV) ”And eternal life means to know You, the only true God, and to know Jesus Christ whom You sent.”(John 17:3TEV) Furthermore, Jesus assures us “I tell you the truth: whoever obeys My teaching will never die.”(John 8:51 TEV) It is through the love of God and our faith in Jesus Christ that we are saved: "For God loved the world so much that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him may not die but have eternal life.” (John 3:16 TEV)
Salvation according to St Paul is: "If you confess that Jesus is Lord and believe that God raised Him from death, you will be saved. For it is by our faith that we are put right with God; it is by our confession that we are saved." (Romans 10:9-10 TEV) and “God puts right everyone who believes in Jesus.” (Romans 3:26 TEV) Again St Paul says “God puts people right through their faith in Jesus Christ. God does this to all who believe in Christ, because there is no difference at all: everyone has sinned and is far away from God’s saving presence. But by the free gift of God’s grace all are put right with Him through Christ Jesus, who set them free.” (Romans 3:22-24 TEV)
Salvation is a gift from God as St Paul says "For it is by grace we have been saved, through faith--and this is not from ourselves, it is the gift of God--not by works, so that no one can boast." (Ephesians 2:8 TEV) No amount of our own good deeds alone will be able to save us. For "it was not because of any good deed that we ourselves had done, but because of His own mercy that He saves us, through the Holy Spirit, who gives us new birth and new life by washing us" (Titus 3:5 TEV).
But, what is faith? St Paul says “To have faith is to be sure of the things we hope for, to be certain of the things we cannot see.”(Hebrew 11:1 TEV) and without faith we cannot please God “No one can please God without faith, for whoever comes to God must have faith that God exists” (Hebrew 11:6 TEV). Faith is accepting Jesus at His word. Faith is taking Jesus completely and absolutely at His word. Faith is complete trust that what Jesus said and taught about God is true. Faith is complete trust and complete confidence in Jesus.
However, St James declares that faith without action is useless. “It is by our actions that we are put right with God, and not by our faith alone. . . . as the body without the spirit is dead, also faith without actions is dead.”(James 2:25,26 TEV)
What types of action? Jesus says “’I was hungry and you fed Me, thirsty and you gave Me a drink. I was a stranger and you received Me in your homes, naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you took care of Me, in prison and you visited Me.’ The righteous will then answer Him, ‘When, Lord, did we ever see You hungry and fed You, or thirsty and give You a drink? When did we ever see You a stranger and welcome You into our homes, or naked and clothe You? When did we ever see You sick or in prison, and visit You?’ The King will reply, ‘whenever you did this for one of the least important of these followers of Mine, you did it for Me!’” (Matthew 25:35-40 TEV) We must not lose sight that we have to do all these good works with love as Jesus says “My commandment is this: love one another, just as I love you” (John 15:12 TEV). In fact, St Paul emphasises that all the sacrifices and all the good works we do are nothing, if we do not do them in a spirit of love: “I may give away everything I have, and even give up my body to be burned--but if I have no love, this does me no good.”(1 Corinthians 13:3 TEV)
How, then, do we show our faith? Our faith is made known by who we emulate. For example, if we have faith in a person, if we believe in him, we try to emulate him. Similarly, when we believe in Jesus, when we have faith in Jesus, we try to emulate Him. How do we do that? We look at Jesus. We look at what Jesus did and still does through the people who truly have faith in Him. And what do we see? We see that He walks His talk and keeps His promises. He says, ““I will never turn away anyone who comes to Me” (John 6:37 TEV) and He shows His works out of love, with no discrimination to a person’s race, religion, culture or wealth, in the following instances. He:
Raises the daughter of Jairus, a Pharisee, from the dead (Luke 8:41-42, 49-56).
Heals a Greek woman’s daughter with unclean spirit (Mark 7:24-30).
Heals the sick servant of a Roman Centurion at Capernaum (Matthew 8:5-13).
Converts a Samaritan woman, who was married to five men (John 4:1-42).
Raises a friend, Lazarus, from the dead (John 11:1-46).
Heals Peter’s mother-in-law at Peter’s home (Luke 4:38-39).
Heals the sick son of a Nobleman in Cana (John 4:46-54).
Heals a poor woman with an issue of blood for twelve years on the way to Jairus’ home (Mark 5:21-34).
Heals the demonic son of a man with little faith a day after the Transfiguration (Mark 9:14-30).
Feeds the four thousand in compassion (Matthew 15:29-32).
Feeds the Five thousand in compassion (John 6:1-13).
Heals a leper in the town next to Peter’s home (Mark 1:40-45).
Heals two blind men after He departed from Jairus’ home (Matthew 9:27-31).
Heals a paralyzed man let down through the roof at Capernaum (Luke 5:17-26).
Casts devil out of a dumb man (Matthew 9:32-34).
Heals a blind and dumb man possessed by devil (Matthew 12:22-23).
Heals blind man, who never even asks for His help in the first place, at Bethsaida (Mark 8:22-26).
Cleanses ten lepers in a village along the border between Samaria and Galilee (Luke 17:12-19).
Heals blind Bartimaeus and another outside Jericho (Luke 18:35-43).
Welcomes the little children (Matthew 19:13-15).
Enlightens Nicodemus, a leading Pharisee, when he visits Him at night (John 3:1-21).
Thus, how do we bless others with our faith? A person is blessed if he/she has faith. And faith is a gift from God. Like all gifts it depends on how we receive them and share them with others. And how does that person bless or share with others his/her faith? One way he/she blesses others is to do good works out of love. The good work, out of a kind and loving heart, is just a concrete expression of his/her faith in God put into practice here and now. The good works, done out of love, can be just as simple as a smile, as Mother Teresa says, “It may happen that a mere smile, a short visit, the lighting of a lamp, writing a letter for a blind man, carrying a bucket of charcoal, offering a pair of sandals, reading the newspaper for someone--something small, very small--may, in fact, be our love of God in action.” (A Life for God, 77)
Again, Father Henri Nouwen shows us how we can choose works out of love in the little things we do every day: “We choose love by taking small steps of love every time there is an opportunity. A smile, a handshake, a word of encouragement, a phone call, a card, an embrace, a kind greeting, a gesture of support, a moment of attention, a helping hand, a present, a financial contribution, a visit---all these are little steps toward love.
Each step is like a candle burning in the night. It does not take the darkness away, but it guides us through the darkness. When we look back after many small steps of love, we will discover that we have made a long and beautiful journey.” (Bread for the Journey, June 15)
Hopefully, when Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, or Hindus show their faith in God by their good works, they do so out of love and not for show or for self glory. Then, people may be touched and believe that there is a loving God after all, even though there is still a lot of evil and cruelty in the world. The good works, done out of love, are just like bringing Heaven to Earth to the “least of My brethren”.
And Mother Teresa defines “least of My brethren” as:
“the hungry and the lonely, not only for food but for the Word of God;
the thirsty and the ignorant, not only for water but also for knowledge, peace, truth, justice, and love;
the naked and the unloved, not only for clothes but also for human dignity;
the unwanted, the unborn child; the racially discriminated against; the homeless and abandoned, not only for a shelter made of bricks, but for a heart that understands, that covers, that loves;
the sick, the dying destitutes, and the captives, not only in body but also in mind and spirit:
all those who have lost all hope and faith in life, the alcoholics and drug addicts and all those who have lost God (for them God was but God is) and who have lost all hope in the power of the Spirit.” (A Simple Path, xxx)
Wouldn't a person be blessed if Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, or Hindus do good works out of a loving heart for him? Wouldn't it be like bringing Heaven to Earth when there are more good works, done out of love, all round?
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