A few years ago, shortly after my conversion from atheist to believer, I joined a group of believers trying to plant a church in a very, very atheist Canadian city: Vancouver. One night a man joins us and the pastor, as well as some of the others, who were always so welcoming, seemed uneasy about him. He was a Christian universalist and, back then, I had no clue what that meant.
Now, friends, there are a lot of differences across religions. And we know that a relationship with God has nothing to do with any religion, but we are called to be patient with fellow believers who are blindsided by religious beliefs.
Christianity itself is a religion: Jesus did not found it and does not belong to it. He was always very critical of religion and if he would show up today, he would not be any less critical of Christian denominations.
But believing that we are all saved regardless of believing into God. Without making the decision to do his will. And without being willing to know what that will is. That is not just a difference. That’s a different story.
I completely understand the complexity of separating a relationship with God from religion. But while God will raise anything, and anyone, as a means to reach out to us, a relationship with him does not happen while we continue to pursue the things of the world and live by its standards.
What saves us is precisely our belief into God. This belief allows us to share his divinity and live a forgiven, peaceful and joyful life in a world of struggles.
The thief on the cross who believed and repented at the very last moment is an example of how God does not give up easily on us. Instead he gives us every single opportunity to leave death behind.
But ultimately we are free, and if we choose this world instead, we have to live with the consequences: death in the physical and spiritual sense.
This is all to say that when God calls us, we have the choice to answer or not. And it is only when we do answer that he can save us.