Loving Enough for Heaven?

“I am sure my Aunt Gladys went to heaven because she was such a loving person,” my friend Ken said.

“Do you really think so?” I replied.

“Yes, I do.”

“Well, I guess you didn’t know your aunt very well.”

“What do you mean?” Ken asked.

“I am quite certain that she was not that loving of a person,” I said.

“What are you talking about?” Ken replied. “She was a wonderful individual! You didn’t even know her.”

“No, I didn’t. But she was a human being, right? I am sure she was a great gal, but the Bible makes it clear none of us are ‘loving’ enough to deserve heaven. My point is that your aunt is no different than any of the rest of us. If she is in heaven, it is not because she was ‘a loving person,’ but because Jesus Christ died on the cross in her place. It is very possible that the reason Aunt Gladys was such a nice individual was because she was a believer in Jesus. If that was the case, the Holy Spirit was helping her show love to other people, and yes, I believe she is indeed in heaven. Yet, if she is there, it is not because she was such a great person, but only because the Lord Jesus is such a great Savior.”

“Oh, I suppose you are right,” Ken said. “But I just don’t see how God could ever keep such a loving person out of heaven.”

Friends, that fictional conversation, based on numerous actual conversations I have had, reflects how difficult it sometimes is to grasp the Biblical truth that we can never be saved by our own efforts, but only through God’s grace in Jesus Christ. As Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “It is by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not of yourselves, it is a gift of God, not a result of good deeds, so no one can boast.” It also reflects our tendency to define a “loving person” in a rather loose way.

I am always challenged by reading Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:46, “If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much.” Friends, I think I am pretty good at loving people who love me, at being nice to folks who are nice to me. I suspect Aunt Gladys may have been good at that, too. It is much more difficult to love those who are not very nice to me or who just don’t seem very “lovable.”

The Lord sets a little higher bar for being a truly “loving” person than most of us do. Rather than trying to deny or rationalize our less-than-perfect love for other people, we need to admit our failures. We should acknowledge that even our best efforts still fall short of the perfect standards which God has set. We then need to seek God’s forgiveness for words, actions, and attitudes which are less than truly loving. Then, most importantly, we must stop relying on our own righteousness and instead turn to Jesus Christ, receive Him as Lord and Savior, and place our trust in His perfect righteousness. When we do this, the Lord will help us to become more truly loving. And most importantly, we can then be confident we will one day be in heaven, not because we are such wonderful people, but because He is a wonderful Savior.
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Pastor Dan Erickson