As an assignment for a college course, one of our members recently found himself taking an online survey. I imagine it was, in many ways, like any one of the plethora of online surveys that we and our co-workers talk about in the break room – the kind in which you answer a host of various questions, and then get an answer, at the end of it all, telling you what sort of personality type you have, or where you’d probably like best to live, or whether you’re a true Yankee or a genuine southerner, and so on.
Only this survey was about religion. Answer a series of questions, and the program spits out an answer as to which world religion your beliefs most resemble. And I suppose that the point of the assignment was to help college students who say that they are Catholic, or Evangelical, or Jewish to see whether or not they actually know and believe what their claimed religion teaches. A good exercise, it seems to me!
But here was the thing: In a question about how a person may obtain eternal life, there was no bubble to fill for grace. There was no option A, B, C, or D under which one might check a box whose answer was that eternal life is obtained, not by one’s own merit, but by the sheer mercy of God; by the merits of Christ, applied to our lives as a free gift, to be received by faith. There was, in short, no biblical answer; no Christian answer; no place for grace!
Why not? Well, I highly doubt that the reason was some sort of attempt at discrimination against Christians. My guess, rather, is that the designers of the test must not actually understand the Christian message! They must not understand salvation by grace, else it would have be included as a possible selection on their survey!
And, on the one hand, that is rather astonishing when you consider that the creation of such an online survey surely necessitated the creators knowing a good deal about many different religions! But, on the other hand, it’s not surprising at all, really. For “a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised” (1 Corinthians 2:14). Which means that an unconverted man or woman may have the good news of salvation as a free gift staring him right in the face, and yet fail to see it. And, if that is true of a person who would venture to create an online religious survey, how much more of the man in the street? Or the woman next door? Or your child’s teammates on the ball team? All of which means that we must pray! We must ask God to do what only He can do (John 6:44)! We can put the gospel message before our lost neighbors’ eyes all day long. But they are spiritually blind (just like we once were). And only God can make blind eyes see!
But then let me make this observation as well: Namely that, while it is true that spiritual blindness is one reason (the deepest reason) people cannot comprehend salvation as a free gift … another reason may be that we have not always put the message of gospel grace before them with enough frequency so as to actually increase the possibility (humanly speaking) that, one of these times, they might actually see it! To return to our online survey maker, I wonder if part of the reason he or she seems to have no concept of the Christian message is because he or she has actually rarely come into contact with it; because very few Christians have come across his or her path and clearly explained it.
What does that mean for us? It means that we mustn’t assume that our friends have ever actually had the gospel message clearly and simply explained to them. We mustn’t assume that spiritual blindness is their only problem, but also realize that it is our responsibility to provide them with something to actually see!
I wonder if our friends, and neighbors, and family members really understand basic Christianity as well as we might think they do. I’d venture a guess that many of them do not; that, if you asked them to explain what they think you believe about eternity … many of them, like the online survey, would have no category for grace.
So let us work hard to at least get the answer of grace onto the bubble sheets of their thinking! Let us do everything we can to make the gospel of grace available (and clear) to those around us. That doesn’t mean they will necessarily receive it, or even perceive it. But they certainly will never do either of those things if no one ever even explains grace clearly in the first place (Romans 10:13-15)! So let’s be on a mission of gospel clarity and proclamation. Let’s do what we can do to put the good news of grace before our neighbors’ eyes. And let’s pray earnestly (1 Corinthians 2:14), that God will grant them to see!