The Rev. Darrell Brazell, pastor, New Hope Fellowship, 1449 Kasold Drive:
This question, while simple to answer is difficult to live.
Biblically, it’s clear, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God ...” (Eph. 2:9-10). However, we so rarely experience real grace that its difficult to fathom.
Every religious system has a system of merit: salvation (being right with God) depends, at least in part, on effort. Say the right prayers, do the right rituals, perform enough good deeds, avoid the wrong sins, etc.
Unfortunately, I’m not just speaking about non-Christian systems. Sadly, even most “Christian” systems, while intellectually teaching “salvation by grace,” operate from a paradigm of performance. We find acceptance, praise and validation when we perform well (or at least appear to) and disgust, rejection and shame when we do not.
Why are scripture and experience so different? Because we learned early in life that people delight in us when we are good and retreat from us when we aren’t, and we project that on God. To be loved and accepted in the middle of our mess seems foreign, contrary and even wrong.
Yet, loved in the middle of our mess is the good news of Salvation. It is the reason Jesus came to earth. He didn’t come for those who were able to get their act together, look the religious part and earn his love. He came for those willing to admit their mess. He came so we could abandon our vain attempts to earn standing with God. He came so we could experience the love of a Father who is always as glad as glad can be to be with us. We can never earn our way into his love. Thankfully, we don’t have to. We simply receive it by faith.
— Send email to Darrell Brazell at email@example.com.
The Rev. Tom Brady, senior pastor, First United Methodist Church, 946 Vt.:
As a Christian, I believe that salvation (eternal life) is a gift from God, a gift made possible through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I turn to the Bible for this understanding. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God — not the result of works.”
God’s gift of eternal life means that each one of us will live beyond death. It is the opportunity for endless creative adventure with God. It is the promise of unbelievably great things — a life of peace and joy. It is lived in intimate association with God and with those who love and serve God.
The promise of salvation comes from God and can only be given by God. An understanding of grace is helpful here. Grace is the unmerited, undeserved, unconditional love of God given willingly and freely to all of God’s children. Although Christians have always recognized the terrible contrast between heaven and hell, it doesn’t make sense to me to believe that a loving God would condemn a child to hell. If we are not saved by good works, why would we be punished for not doing good works?
Does this mean that all of us are saved? Is some act of faith necessary before death in order to be saved? Is there a judgment day where there will be some form of accountability for our actions? I don’t know the answers to these questions. But I do know that it’s not my place to determine the eternal fate of others, and I don’t want to place any limits on the grace of God.
— Send email to Tom Brady at firstname.lastname@example.org.