Will I be Saved?

Since ‘it is a narrow gate and a hard road that leads to life, and only a few find it’ (Mt. 7:14) anyone who takes death seriously will wonder ‘will I be saved?’ Besides, there is the warning that ‘you will not get out till you have paid the very last penny’ (Lk.12:59), and there is the advice to ‘work for your salvation in fear and trembling’ (Phil. 2:12). Besides, there are preachers frightening people with the burden of having to do penance for the sins of forebears!

This makes many, in an effort to save themselves, depend on fast and penance, novenas and pilgrimages, all sorts of devotional practices and rites of purification. Others turn to God; depend on God. Job finds peace in the knowledge that he has a Saviour (Job 19:25). The Bible is filled with the conviction that God Himself is the Saviour (Is. 41:14, 43:14, 49:26, 44:6, 54:8, 63:16, Ps. 3:8, 35:9, 68:20, Job 2:9, Rm. 1:16). Israel’s founding experience is that of a God who heard their cry, defeated their enemies, and effectively led them to a land flowing with milk and honey.

God gave them rules for harmonious and prosperous living. But when, ignoring God and yielding to temptations, they were living self-destructively, God sent them prophets to lead them back to life-giving ways. Not satisfied with the results, ‘the kindness and love of God our Saviour’ (Tit. 3:4) became a human being for the salvation of all (1Tim. 4:10). This man, Jesus, like a mighty prophet, taught in word and deed that God is compassionate love; reduced laws and traditions to love; urged all to love as God loves; taught that loving God is loving humans; relativized the importance of places and rituals; loved sinners and the downtrodden. The pious, the learned and the religious authorities opposed this vehemently, and had Jesus killed most cruelly as a scandal. God did not save Jesus from death, but made Him victorious by raising Him up.

When we consider that, following Jesus, God wants all to ‘give up everything that does not lead to God, and all our worldly ambitions; we must be self-restrained and live good and religious lives’ (Tit. 2:12) who can say that ‘I have no sin’? Who will be saved if judged justly? Our hope is in God. “…it was for no reason except for His own compassion that He saved us” (Tit. 3:5).

Since God Himself is concerned about our salvation we need not be anxious. We should, rather, be concerned about ‘saving’ others- saving them from hunger, disease, exploitation and loneliness. In other words, we should be concerned about bringing about God’s rule on earth (Mt. 6:33). Those who lose their lives on account of it, like Bl. Romero and Rani Maria, will gain eternal life (Jn. 12:25).

Eternal life is not only life after death. It is to be enjoyed now itself. Life with God who is always with us (Is. 43:1-2, Mt. 28:20), life in God is eternal life. What God promises us is a peace which nothing can take away from us (Jn. 14:27, 16:20).

We who believe in life after death must believe in the present life. We should not forget to live. We must enjoy the marvels of creation see the beautiful, hear the melodious, enjoy salutary food and drink, feel the touch of the earth and the caress of the breeze. We must enjoy the creation certified by God as good, and given us as gift. We must stand still in admiration. This is also praising and glorifying God.

Even though God wants all to be saved, and none to be lost (Mt.18:14, Jn. 6:39) we have responsibilities, too. Those who have experienced God’s love, will do only what pleases God. God has told us what is good (Mic. 6.8). Created in God’s image, our hearts know it. God has given us wisdom to discern what is good, and freedom to choose it and the responsibility to do it. Conscience will not allow us to do what is evil. Conscience will torment us when we sin. We are not fools not to know that sin hurts ourselves and many others!

Still, our salvation is not our achievement, reward for a good life of sincere efforts. It is God’s gratuitous and loving gift (Eph. 2:5-8; Tit. 3:5; Ps 130:3-4). God is our Saviour, our refuge (Is. 12:2, Ps. 31).

M.J. Thomas, S.J.