Pop-theology = Salvation by Works?

A couple of days ago I got this email from a beloved family member, who forwarded it in good faith that I would enjoy reading it. Well, I read it, was amused by it, figured it probably wasn’t true, and deleted it. After a few seconds of reflection I recovered it from my trash. Now, I didn’t recover it because I suddenly decided to forward it to X number of people in order to show the world that I truly love Jesus or any such business…I recovered it for a much more sobering purpose. Before going into the details, here is the email in its entirety:

Very creepy little known facts…KNOW THESE FACTS?

Death is certain but the Bible speaks about untimely death!
Make a personal reflection about this.
Very interesting, read until the end.
It is written in the Bible (Galatians 6:7): “Be not deceived; God is not mocked:
for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.”
Here are some men and women who mocked God :

John Lennon (Singer): Some years before, during his interview with an American magazine, he said: “Christianity will end, it will disappear. I do not have to argue about that. I am certain. Jesus was ok, but his subjects were too simple. Today we are more famous than Him” (1966). Lennon, after saying that the Beatles were more famous than Jesus Christ, was shot six times.

Tancredo Neves (President of Brazil ): During the Presidential campaign, he said if he got 500,000 votes from his party, not even God would remove him from Presidency. Sure he got the votes, but he got sick a day before being made President, then he died.

Cazuza (Bi-sexual Brazilian composer, singer and poet): During A show in Canecio (Rio de Janeiro ), while smoking his cigarette, he puffed out some smoke into the air and said: “God, that’s for you.” He died at the age of 32 of AIDS in a horrible manner.

The man who built the Titanic After the construction of Titanic, a reporter asked him how safe the Titanic would be. With an ironic tone he said: “Not even God can sink it” The result: I think you all know what happened to the Titanic .

Marilyn Monroe (Actress): She was visited by Billy Graham during a presentation of a show. He said the Spirit of God had sent him to preach to her. After hearing what the Preacher had to say, she said: “I don’t need your Jesus”. A week later, she was found dead in her apartment.

Campinas (2005) In Campinas, Brazil a group of friends, drunk, went to pick up a friend. The mother accompanied her to the car and was so worried about the drunkenness of her friends and she said to the daughter holding her hand, who was already seated in the car: “My Daughter, Go With God And May He Protect You.” She responded: “Only If He (God) Travels In The Trunk, Cause Inside Here, It’s Already Full” Hours later, news came by that they had been involved in a fatal accident, everyone had died, the car could not be recognized what type of car it had been, but surprisingly, the trunk was intact. The police said there was no way the trunk could have remained intact. To their surprise, inside the trunk was a crate of eggs, none was broken.

Christine Hewitt (Jamaican Journalist and entertainer) said the Bible (Word of God) was the worst book ever written. In June 2006 she was found burnt beyond recognition in her motor vehicle.

Now, I’ll admit that I did not research the validity of this email or any of the claims in it. I suspect that at least some of these are not true, and I know the grammar is less than stellar, but these are beyond the point. Explicitly, this email purposes to document the justice of our holy God against those who have spurned him in one way or another. Implicitly, the author joins the ranks of the Pharisee in Jesus’ parable who prays along the lines of, “Thank you, God, that I am so pious, righteous, and holy and not at all like that dirtbag tax collector praying over there” (cf. Lk 18.9-14). The fact of the matter is this, every sin I committed today, no matter seemingly insignificant, is just as vile and reprehensible in the eyes of God as any of the acts recorded here. Two observations…

First, if we reach the point of applauding God’s justice against the sins of others while minimizing our own sins, we have become those who “trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt” (Lk 18.9, ESV). In other words, the tone of this email is a presumptive pride that we are saved by our own works, or at least by the alleged absence of ‘heinous’ sins. We need to hear Jesus’ rebuke, allow God’s law to break our pride, confess our sinful pride and receive the merciful forgiveness of Christ.

Second, if fail to remember that Christ bore God’s wrath for the sins of the world and that God consequently looks at the world not only in his justice but also in his mercy, we run the risk of being a compassionless bunch of Christ followers…which I need not remind us is a horribly oxymoronic thing, but unfortunately not unheard of among Conservatives and Fundamentalists.

This email was a great one. Not for its pathetic English grammar or poor theology but for reminding me of the great mercy of Christ Jesus our Lord…especially toward me, a sinner deserving of the wrath of God.

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