Leonard: What would you say if God asked you why you should be allowed into heaven?
In the spring of 2000, I was living about 30 minutes north of Dallas where I was about to go on staff with Young Life. I came across a question that, to me, was the most profound question I had ever heard. Since then I have asked it to hundreds of people: friends, relatives, immediate family and even a few times I’ve asked someone I barely know.
It lets me into one of the most significant parts of their lives; one that often goes neglected. The answers are usually pretty similar but come wrapped in different ways. There is usually a pause, sometimes an awkward grin and a few times I’ve gotten expletives beginning with an “f” or “sh” due to the depth of the question.
“If you died today and stood before God and he asked you, ‘Why should I let you into heaven?’ What would you say?”
How would you answer that? Does the question bring a smile to your face or does it bring some other emotion? I asked this question to an older man from the church I grew up going to. His response was “I go to church. I tithe (i.e. give money to the church). I serve in various roles on Sunday mornings and even sit on a Board at the church. I try to be a good person. I’ve never killed anyone.” (I wasn’t quite sure how to react to that one — congrats, you’re not a murderer. Well done.) Once he was finished with his moral resume I was astounded that he didn’t mention the only thing that really mattered.
There was a time in my life when my answer was pretty similar. Until I was in my late teens, my understanding of being a Christian was centered around me being a good person; I was at the center. I thought I had to earn my way to heaven by doing more good things than bad things. Being asked this question helped me see how far off I was from what the Scriptures say.
If I died today and stood before God and He asked me, “Scott, why should I let you into heaven?” My answer is simple: “You shouldn’t. I’ve lied, cheated, stolen, lusted, etc. too many times to count (though mostly in my high school years so don’t hold it against me). I haven’t lived up to your moral standard and though I’ve been a pretty decent guy lately, I’ve fallen short. But according to what you said (and is recorded in the scriptures), if I place my trust and faith in Jesus, that he came to live a perfect life on my behalf and offers to forgive me of my wrongdoings, then I should be good to enter.”
The absolute core of the Christian faith has to do with a person, Jesus, not a belief system or a set of rules. We are saved by his good deeds, not our own. In two days, millions of people all around the globe will pause for at least 24 hours to remember his entry onto the Earth’s stage.
In closing, if you’d like to ask any questions or ponder this faith I’d love to entertain them more than you could imagine. I can’t turn water to wine but I’d love to buy you a drink. Starting on Jan. 28, I am going to host an eight-week program called The Alpha Course in Avon. Seekers and skeptics have been exploring the Christian faith for decades with this program. If you’d be interested or want to know more about it, feel free to shoot me an email or watch the program’s two-minute promo video at alphausa.org/resources.
Scott Leonard is the area director for Search Vail Valley. You can reach him at email@example.com.