A well-educated, intelligent, friend of ours recently suggested that she hoped that re-incarnation might be a reality. She hoped that she might get a chance at a mulligan. There were some things she thought she might be able to do better next time around. She is drawn to Buddhism, not because she understands it, but because it offers this idea of a great cosmic do-over. She has trouble with the concept of one life, a final decision, and an eternal destiny. I think we can all relate to these feelings and I admit the idea of reincarnation is appealing at a certain level. And yet, . . .
Our friend likes the idea of heaven. Who doesn’t? She struggles with the idea of some people going to hell. But she also struggles with the idea of sitting down at a banquet table in heaven next to Adolf Hitler, Pol Pot, or Robert Pickton. She recognizes that somewhere, somehow, someone must draw a line. We would not want to see everyone get to heaven.
Jesus Christ said something different than Siddhartha Gautama (the Buddha). He told of a way to eternal life that did not require countless revolutions through this world until one did enough things to attain enlightenment. He said that those who listen to his message and believe in God who sent him would have eternal life. They would never be condemned for their sins but would pass from death into life. He said that even the dead would one day hear the voice of the Son of God and those who listened would live. Those who continued in evil would experience judgement. (See the Gospel of John 5:19-30.)
I know it is out of vogue to believe in Jesus. I know it is common to see him as just a good teacher along with all the other good teachers like the Buddha. I know it is in vogue to believe in karma, reincarnation, and all paths leading to heaven. And yet . . ., to both my brain and my heart, the message of Jesus still makes sense. In this world, it is the only thing that does.
John 5:23b-30 (New Living Translation)
Anyone who does not honor the Son is certainly not honoring the Father who sent him.
24 “I tell you the truth, those who listen to my message and believe in God who sent me have eternal life. They will never be condemned for their sins, but they have already passed from death into life.
25 “And I assure you that the time is coming, indeed it’s here now, when the dead will hear my voice—the voice of the Son of God. And those who listen will live. 26 The Father has life in himself, and he has granted that same life-giving power to his Son. 27 And he has given him authority to judge everyone because he is the Son of Man.[d] 28 Don’t be so surprised! Indeed, the time is coming when all the dead in their graves will hear the voice of God’s Son, 29 and they will rise again. Those who have done good will rise to experience eternal life, and those who have continued in evil will rise to experience judgment. 30 I can do nothing on my own. I judge as God tells me. Therefore, my judgment is just, because I carry out the will of the one who sent me, not my own will.