I am wondering why mainstream Christian churches have hijacked the notion of grace and disallowed its accessibility to human beings who are following a faith path but do not identify themselves as Christian. The church has restricted access to grace to those asserting that they are Christians. Is this an instinct for self-preservation? Is this what Jesus intended?
I believe that part of the decline of church attendance is that it has become unappealing for those of differing views, and difficult for people with broad world views. Too many churches are an exclusive club, emphasizing who is excluded from "salvation" and "grace," and I don't think that is what Jesus intended or envisioned. He reached out to people who had been left behind and stigmatized by mainstream society. The problem is that there were no Christians at the time of Christ -- zero, zilch, nada. So which people of those that Jesus encountered would be most like modern-day Christians? Would it be the apostles, or the Pharisees? There aren't a lot of choices.
Maybe a better question is, what group do modern-day Christians emulate, Jesus's apostles, or the Pharisees?
Please re-read the parable of the sheep and the goats if you are a practicing Christian. "When did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink, Lord? Or when did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?" The King will reply, "Whatever you did for the least of these, you did for me." (Matthew 25:excerpted from 37-40, NIV Adventure Bible) You mean, these saved people didn't even recognize their savior? Had they not called on him by name? Apparently not.
These people who have served the Lord with these good works are in the kingdom of heaven. I was going to say they were "granted access" but that implies a pearly-gate style security system, and the kingdom of heaven is way beyond that limitation!
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