A Real Good Thing
Born in 1985, I’m the youngest person on RTB’s staff and a member of the Millennial Generation (alternatively known as Generation Y or Generation Next). According to the press, my peers and I are rapidly becoming known for a few generalized characteristics, such as our tech savvy, our tendency to live at home longer than previous generations, but most especially for our overdeveloped sense of entitlement. An article on CBS’s website provides an apt description for our upbringing:
“They were raised by doting parents who told them they are special, played in little leagues with no winners or losers, or all winners. They are laden with trophies just for participating and they think your business-as-usual ethic is for the birds. And if you persist in the belief you can take your job and shove it.”
Fortunately, not all the news about my generation is as cringe worthy as that. But our culture as a whole has gotten into a mindset of entitlement and fairness. Everyone wants to get what they think they deserve—and they usually think they deserve the best. And fairness—the distortion of which often means readjusting standards so no one gets their feelings hurt—has become the ultimate goal.
No wonder we balk at the idea that “good” people could end up in Hell.
If someone is judged a “good person” by whatever earthly scale, it’s only fair that they be allowed to enter Heaven. They deserve to walk through those pearly gates. Conversely, certain people shouldn’t be forgiven. Right?
C. S. Lewis’s The Great Divorce explores this dilemma. While on a sort of field trip to the foothills of Heaven, a specter from Hell, whom the narrator calls the “Big Ghost,” encounters the redeemed spirit of a co-worker who murdered another man while on Earth. The Big Ghost is appalled at the seeming unfairness of the situation. He declares, “I’m a decent man and if I had my rights I’d have been here long ago and you can tell them I said so.” But the Spirit reminds the Big Ghost that, in truth, he wasn’t a decent man—no one was.
As the narrator discovers while listening to conversations between the Ghosts and the Spirits, no one deserves salvation. Oft-quoted Romans 3:23 says “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” The Spirit of the redeemed murderer explains to the Big Ghost that by rights everyone deserves Hell, not Heaven.
But Romans 3:24 adds that all who believe and accept God’s terms “are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” The solution to humanity’s greatest problem, that of sin, is so simple—yet, it is difficult for us to humble ourselves and submit to God’s will. Even after experiencing Hell, the Ghosts in The Great Divorce often would rather have things their way and be miserable, than give up their precious vices and be happy in Heaven. In Why the Universe Is the Way It Is, Hugh Ross explains,
“The gradual transformation of desires and motivations that takes place when one bows to Christ as the master of life and invites the Holy Spirit to metamorphose him into the image of Christ…There is no loss of free will in the process of giving one’s life to Christ. The new believer continues to exercise free will in cooperating with, or resisting, the Holy Spirit in the transformation process.”
Image courtesy of Creative Commons license.
Our sense of entitlement tells us the ultimate get-out-of-jail-free card should be ours automatically, but God does not adjust the standard of holiness to accommodate stubborn humans who will only accept salvation on their terms. The truth is God is the only one who exercises true fairness. He doesn’t play favorites. Everyone has the option of accepting his mercy.
Christian rock group the Newsboys puts it this way:
“When we don’t get what we deserve,
That’s a real good thing, a real good thing;
When we get what we don’t deserve,
That’s a real good thing, a real good thing.”
If you haven’t read Lewis’s The Great Divorce, I highly recommend checking it out. See here for clips from an excellent one-man presentation of the book by actor Anthony Lawton.
For more on Heaven, see these articles from RTB:
To further explore tough questions about God and Christianity, check out Hugh Ross’s Why the Universe Is the Way It Is and Kenneth Samples’ Without a Doubt.