Most of us think that in some way we must do something to earn God’s love and forgiveness in order to become a Christian and qualify for heaven after we die. I like to refer to that as “Merit Badge” religion and it has little to do with what Jesus taught and lived. When I was a Boy Scout leader, the boys who won the coveted rank of Eagle Scout were those who won a large number of merit badges and completed a useful project for the community. It was what they knew and what they were able to do that won the award. “Merit badge religion” is the result of the church being taken over by the American culture. In this culture we attain superiority by competing well: by being the most knowledgeable and highest educated; by improved morality and improved behavior. We worship success in our culture and believe that we get what we deserve by what we work hard for and therefore are worthy of.
We have transferred these same principles to our churches. So to have the right informed knowledge about God; to know the Bible through deep study and to behave morally and ethically according to its perceived teachings; and to practice the correct rites of worship, communion, baptism, plus giving our money in acts of stewardship we will competitively qualify for heaven . We earn it. It is by what we know and what we do that qualifies us. And therein is the problem .Note I refer to it as “religion” not “Christianity”
Our Christian spiritual lives and our churches are too often based on this same sort of religious meritocracy. For example:
- Being able to recite Bible memory verses
- Going to church every Sunday
- Attending Sunday school
- Having the “correct beliefs” by understanding and defending the church’s creed
- Being a “good” person
- Being baptized in the “correct” way
- Taking communion
- t These are admirable, I will concede, but none will earn us a seat at the Lord’s table in the Kingdom of God.
Jesus makes it very clear that ONLY GOD’S GRACE can do that and it has already been given to us. All we need to do is be aware of God’s saving love and forgiveness. It is freely given and there is no way God’s Grace can be earned.
The problem with “Merit Badge” Christianity is that it bases our entry into God’s Kingdom on what we do and as the New Testament says and Jesus proclaimed it is all up to God’s grace. “Merit Badge” Christianity says we must work, labor, sweat and learn, and do more to gain a place in God’s Kingdom. The opposite is true! God gives us his Kingdom. Nothing we do on our own can gain us entrance.
Jesus did not say “Blessed are the brightest and the best”
He said: “Blessed are the poor for to them is the Kingdom of God”.