It is natural for parents who believe in an afterlife to be concerned about their child’s future destiny. It is also quite natural for parents, who believe the Bible teaches there is a Hell and that certain beliefs are necessary to go to Heaven, to be concerned when their child doesn’t proclaim beliefs their parents think necessary. I am convinced such parents need not worry.
A particular view of how one is saved according to the Bible, thus going to Heaven, is frequently taught in Christian churches. It is said to be important one must say some version of the sinner’s prayer to be saved to go to Heaven and avoid Hell: “God, I am a sinner and ask for forgiveness. Jesus, I believe you died for my sins and rose from the dead. Please come into my heart as I trust you as my Savior.”
Does the Bible teach certain beliefs are necessary to be saved and go to Heaven?
Jeremy Myers at his blog redeeminggod.com says: “In Scripture, the word “save” (saved, salvation, Savior, etc.) almost never means ‘gain eternal life so you can go to heaven when you die.’ This is what most Christians think the word means, and this is how most Christians use this word, but the Bible does not support such a definition. The word ‘saved’ simply means ‘deliverance’ … You can be delivered from enemies, sickness, drowning, premature death, and a variety of other disasters… look in the context to figure out what kind of deliverance is in view.” The Bible refers to everlasting life as a quality, not quantity, of life to begin living here on earth. When Jesus was asked directly how to obtain eternal life, He said nothing about Heaven (Lk. 10:25-28). Jesus spoke of a life worth living being a loving life empowered by our Creator.
Christian parents worry about their child’s beliefs not only to go to Heaven but avoid Hell.
I am totally convinced the traditional understanding of Hell is not in the Bible. In the New Testament the Greek word Gehenna translated into the word hell was a real valley near Jerusalem known as a site for terrible slaughters. Gehenna, a pronoun needing no translation, symbolized choosing selfishness over love lead to spiritual death. Gehenna (Hell) is not a place created by God where people go after death to be tortured forever for not accepting Jesus.
So, it doesn’t matter what my child believes in God’s eyes?
A loving God, like any loving parent, wants their child to live a life that leads to less regrets in the long-run. No child or parent lives a perfect life, but is your child on the right track or did they not hear a word you said and only give a damn about themselves and not others? If you taught your child to be totally self-centered, you got what you deserve. But, I doubt such parents are reading this. Now, some children despite loving parents have gone completely off the guardrails. It happens because children as they get older have the freedom to make their own choices and temptations seek us out. I hope such parents can at least draw comfort that good parents increase the chances of a child making better choices or returning to their senses at some point in life.
Why would a loving Creator’s love be any different than an imperfect parent’s love?
The Bible is a story about God coming down to join the nation of Israel to reveal his love for all nations. God came in the person of Jesus to reveal God’s desire to empower all to live life to the fullest. I fail often and God picks me right back up and encourages me to not give up the good fight. That is all Christian parents want for their children – to feel loved and empowered to live a life in their best interest. That is what life is about in God’s and a parent’s eyes – not escaping earth to go to Heaven and avoid Hell.
I am sure many who are reading this are still skeptically of what I claim the Bible says.
Let’s assume that a set of beliefs is required for eternal life. First, keep in mind the majority of people born into this work didn’t have a Bible thus knowing anything about Jesus. Is a loving God really going to have everlasting life with one’s Creator depend on a Book most never had? Besides, God wouldn’t make a Book an authoritative guide about supposed required beliefs. Literature must be interpreted so definitive conclusions aren’t possible. So, we don’t have to live in fear about “required” beliefs our children must have.
In case you believe certain beliefs are necessary to go to Heaven, one can’t assume God is not a God of second chances after death. God gives us a million chances here on earth, but then the moment we die God’s forgiveness well dries up! Imperfect parents can’t stop being forgiving. Are we more forgiving than our Creator? If you think I might be right about what the Bible says about Hell, then those who claim the Bible teaches there are no second chances could be wrong.
But, my child has no excuses to not be laser-focused spiritually.
Even if you accept that there aren’t certain beliefs one must have here on earth to be accepted by God after death, you may think you child has no excuses because you taught there is a God who wants to have a relationship with each and every one of us. Your child seemingly has no interest. Aren’t they without excuse? I don’t agree. There are as many reasons why they aren’t seemingly spiritual-minded. First, you don’t know they don’t believe in God or have some kind of relationship though they don’t talk about it much. No one knows what goes on in private. I got friends who wear their spirituality on their forehead and they can’t walk in the boots of some friends, who rarely speak of God, who treat others much better like they want to be treated. I could show you in the Bible where beliefs don’t matter – if you aren’t walking the talk, you aren’t walking with the Lord. Our futures surely don’t depend on some kind of beliefs but God’s grace and mercy.
I can’t name all the reasons one isn’t as spiritual-minded as you are. Maybe people in their life claiming to know God, they wanted nothing to do with their God. Maybe they see all the suffering in the world and can’t get their head around how a loving God could truly exist. Would you rather they not care about all the suffering in the world! Some have heard what some Christians claim about creation that don’t fit the scientific facts. Maybe they have called on God in the past and feel nothing happened. Yes, there are good reasons why people are atheists! But, this is more about God than what your child does or doesn’t believe. Does God run out of patience or give up when one doesn’t accept God in the way you do? Your child may not be into God, but do you really think God is not involved with them at the level they can accept?
So, what should my relationship with my child be when they aren’t laser-focused spiritually?
If I have helped you to relax in any way that eternal life isn’t about a set of beliefs, you can go back to having a normal relationship with your child. With friends we have no business pushing our spirituality on others. Just be an open book when others want to talk about God. You don’t need to schedule outings or trips in hopes the God-conversation comes up. Is that really how to be a loving friend or parent – to have a hidden agenda to convert? I get with my children and friends to enjoy one another. When I hurt, hopefully they will be there for me. When they hurt, I want to be there for them. When they want to talk about God, I am there. Personally, I love talking about God as much as others like talking about their favorite hobby. But, don’t push your agenda on others. Enjoy your children. Relax. Encourage them. Give advice when asked. When they are treating others like dirt, show the other side of love – tough love. Let God speak to them when they want to talk.
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