Not long ago on a Friday a friend and I stopped for lunch at a fast food restaurant. It being Lent my Protestant friend knew I couldn’t eat meat. What he didn’t know is that I was also on a paleo diet. Needless to say my options were rather limited. A few days later he was telling the story to his wife and turned to me and said, “You know God doesn’t give extra points for that, right?”
I knew what he meant as I had grown up in a similar evangelical tradition. The view is that you are either saved or not and there is nothing we can do to influence our salvation except to make the decision to accept Jesus as our personal lord and savior. Accepting this gift through faith God now ‘covers’ our sins and sinful nature with Christ and allows us into Heaven. When God looks at us He sees His Son. This is not to say that we cannot act in ways that are pleasing to God. These acts have nothing to do with whether or not we get into Heaven.
This has always struck me as a little odd. God becomes like Polyphemus in “The Odyssey”. He willfully makes Himself blind so that those who have accepted Jesus can steal into Heaven by disguising themselves as the Lamb. Still there is truth in the assertion that there is nothing we can do to merit Heaven. No amount of being ‘good’ or doing works makes Heaven something you deserve. May God spare us what we truly deserve.
This makes the mistake of treating our relationship to God into a contract and not a covenant. It’s not a matter of if I do X then God will do Y. I can’t promise that if I do A then hope that God will in return do B. The simple summation of all of salvation history is that it’s about love. It’s not so much an exchange of promises as an exchange of persons. God has chosen to share who He is with us. The only response that we can make is to either refuse this exchange or to offer to Him ourselves. That is our ourselves in all our totality. The secret is that love spends profligately. It does not count the cost.
It’s really not about points. It’s about wanting to please based on love. Our actions should be based on pleasing God and pleasing Him should please us because we love Him. It’s simple. It’s a true marriage. Anything else is a prostitution of our interior life, our personal relationship with God.