What if I don’t believe in Jesus?

I was 12 years old when I accepted Jesus into my heart. Choosing Jesus as my Lord had nothing to do with my salvation. At the time I wasn’t thinking about how sinful I was or staying out of eternal Hell. I was thinking about how lonely and awkward I felt in the midst of the peers and adults around me. It had finally come to my attention that who I was didn’t fit with the crowds in which I found myself at school or church or my neighborhood. The youth pastor at our family church retreat told a group of us kids that Jesus wanted to be our friend. That He loved us. If I wanted to know that love, that acceptance, that friendship, all I had to do was accept Jesus into my heart and follow Him. I chose Jesus because I wanted to be loved, not because I wanted to be saved.

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My relationship with Christ the last 24 years has never been about my salvation from Hell. I also have never worried about anyone else’s future in Heaven or Hell either. As I have grown in knowledge and experience with Jesus, there’s been confusion in my heart as to why so many Christians worry and argue and dictate over other people’s repentance and afterlife in Heaven or Hell.

A couple years ago when a dear loved one in our family passed away, a friend asked me if this loved one was a Believer (one who’s accepted Jesus as his Lord). No, he wasn’t a Believer. My friend, with a wince in her face and tension in her body, asked, “How do you feel about that? The Bible is clear about what happens to those who aren’t saved.” I bristled inside. I told my friend I had to believe my dear, sweet loved one was dancing in Heaven with his beloved wife who had passed before him.

It wasn’t until recently that I realized the general belief in current Christian culture about salvation and eternal Hell is completely and shockingly different than what I believe… what I have always considered to be true since I was 12 but never explored until now. Generally speaking, Christianity says if you don’t believe in God, then you’re going to Hell. If you want a place in Heaven, then you must be made right with God by repenting and choosing Jesus. If this is true then that means over half the world is going to burn in Hell for eternity and only a select few will enter the gates of Heaven.

Geez. God’s house must be pretty small.

It would also mean we have a cruel and exclusive God. I don’t believe this at all. This general theology doesn’t match the character of the God I have come to know and love.

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The moment Jesus died on that precious and wretched cross, everyone became saved. Whether you believe in God or not, Jesus died for you and you are welcome as a citizen in God’s kingdom. The death and Resurrection of Jesus is so significant that it was for every single person on this planet, regardless of religion, sin, sexual orientation, race, crimes, belief and unbelief. “For God so loved this world, He sent his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” I don’t see that second half–“that whoever believes in Him”–as a condition for the entry of Heaven. It’s an invitation to believe in a love so big and existential that our life becomes transformed and alive in a way that is supernatural here on Earth yet completely natural in the spiritual realm. If we don’t accept the invitation, we risk perishing in the consequences of our human nature, choices we make driven by natural human desire and selfishness.

The love of Jesus and the result of his sacrifice on the cross is 100% inclusive, all-encompassing and scandalous. His love and gift of salvation for all God’s children includes those whom I personally cannot even fathom loving–such as murderers, terrorists, sex traffickers, child abusers, animal abusers, (Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump! 😛 )–and people who have hurt me so badly they aren’t even safe to be in my life anymore.  But every single person in this world is painstakingly and purposefully knitted into existence by the hand of God, making each one of us His child–loved and welcomed to the gift of life He has for us through Jesus.

I believe there is Heaven and Hell, and I believe there is justice and consequences for those who choose to live a life hurting others. I also believe in the power of repentance. However, my point here today is to say God does not toss into eternal Hell those who don’t believe in Jesus. I have heard it asked that if everyone is welcome into the Kingdom of Heaven, if there is no eternal Hell, then what’s the point?  I say, take away both Heaven and Hell and God still matters. If all we’re left with is God, isn’t He enough? 

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If you’re feeling alone, cast aside, and awkward in a world where you don’t fit, please know that Jesus loves you and wants you. You’re already saved. He’s just waiting for you to take his hand and accept Him. Choose Jesus for love and watch how your life changes. A simple prayer grasps His hand, “Dear Jesus, I choose you to lead my life. Show me the way and I will follow You.” And if you’re an unBeliever in Christ–atheist or agnostic or a parishioner of another religion–that’s okay. I still believe Jesus loves you and welcomes you if you ever want to meet Him.

For my friends and family who are reading this, worried about my theology and/or think my belief is wildly misled and filled with lies of the enemy: If believing God’s love is so big that it allows for Jesus’ death to mean life for all His people, not just Believers, makes me ludicrous, then so be it. You can pray that God changes my mind, but what would it mean for your theology if He doesn’t?

 

 

16 thoughts on “What if I don’t believe in Jesus?

  1. Linda Kruschke

    I get where you are going with this, but I’m one of those who will argue that your theology is off. You’ve quoted John 3:16, a popular and awesome verse. But if you keep reading you’ll find John 3:18, which says, “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” I struggle with the idea of those who don’t believe being condemned, but God is sovereign and He gets to choose the rules, whether I like them or not.

    His love IS big enough to save the whole world, but He will not force anyone to spend eternity with Him who does not desire to spend time with Him on this earth. How I understand Hell is that it is an eternal place where God is not. It is separation from Him. If a person, after hearing of Jesus, chooses to reject Him and to go their own way, He will respect that choice.

    Based on what Jesus said, what the Bible message as a whole is, I cannot in good conscience tell someone that it doesn’t matter whether they believe Jesus died for their sins. What if they die and what scripture says is true, and they spend eternity outside the presence of God? Because of what I said? I would feel terrible.

    But I completely agree that the blessing of a relationship with Jesus now is so important. It’s what people need to hear because a focus only on what happens after we die doesn’t help anyone navigate the challenges of today. The love of Jesus here and now is what we all need.

    Peace and grace,
    Linda

    Reply
    1. Leanne Post author

      Thanks for your thoughtful response, Linda! I am not saying it doesn’t matter that Jesus died for our sins. It 100% matters because our lives change when we understand the magnitude of the gift we’ve been given in that sacrifice. We were and are a jacked up people and we need Jesus’ redemption and our second chance. I am saying Jesus and the Cross are even bigger than what we give it credit for. And following Jesus 100% changes the way we live and experience life. And yes, God will respect someone if they choose not to follow Jesus–He won’t force them. But I think of Earth as so finite and small and full of darkness, that God wouldn’t just give us this one chance to “get it right” so to speak. There is still an entire active spiritual realm in full effect we can’t possibly understand. We’re spiritual beings having a human experience and I can’t help but wonder if something happens when we die where God gives another opportunity to understand and accept Christ even deeper. I know that isn’t in the Bible, but I don’t think it is dangerous to ask questions and pray and wrestle and wonder.

      As for condemnation, yes, the Bible says those who don’t believe already stand condemned. One thing I think about is how the Bible also says we are all going to stand in judgement before God–even those of us who have chosen Jesus and continually repent for our sins. So there’s a dissonance here that I can’t decipher.

      In the meantime, when I think of “believing in Jesus” or declaring Jesus as my Lord, to me it means that I believe in and follow His Ways… His ways of loving, forgiving, living, bestowing grace and mercy… I believe in His way of Love. If I don’t believe in His Way, then I am believing in my own carnal human ways which are selfish, lazy, self-centered, arrogant, etc. thus I make choices that will hurt both myself and others. Pfft. I still do it even as a Believer, but I know Jesus has my back and will lead me better. Believing in and living my own way will absolutely leave me guilty and condemned, both here on Earth and in the eyes of God. Am I condemned to Hell? I don’t know; I’m not convinced. I believe in Hell and I believe evil does and will live there. But I don’t know that we fully understand what God’s criteria is for going there, and I think we’re going to be surprised by who we meet in Heaven.

      I do appreciate you being open to discussion, Linda. I pray you’ll still be my friend even if we differ in our views. My purpose is and always will be to invite people closer to Christ, which I know we both advocate for. <3

      Reply
      1. Linda Kruschke

        First of all, of course we are still friends! Are you kidding me? God brought us together as friends, perhaps for the very purpose of having discussions such as this.

        I need to work on my budget so I’ll be brief in this reply. My only other comment would be on my view of all people standing in judgment before God. As I read scripture, at that judgment God will be looking at one thing: How do we intend to justify our actions during this life. Do we intend to stand on our own and say we were good enough to merit living eternally in His presence, we have earned our own way? Or do we intend to stand on the justifying work of Jesus on the cross, admitting that we cannot ever measure up on our own? It’s the choice between pride and humility.

        Man looks at external factors; God looks at the heart. Love your heart, my friend.

        Reply
  2. theravensdesk127

    Thank you for sharing such a powerful post Leanne! I think you raise some incredibly important questions in regards to self examination as to where our hearts are at as believers and non believers alike. We cannot obviously at this time, on this side of Heaven, know what eternity holds, but I think you summed it up beautifully by saying “If all we’re left with is God, isn’t He enough?” Wow.
    I am so grateful that you are willing to boldly step out and share your heart, inviting others to experience the incredible love of Jesus both through your story and through your words of love. <3

    Reply
    1. Leanne Post author

      Thanks, Kelcey. Please understand I am not saying I am right or wrong because you are 100% right that we have no idea what eternity holds until we cross over to the spiritual realm. I just want people to understand that eternal Hell isn’t necessarily their destiny and that God isn’t cruel. I think more people would trust Him and turn to Jesus if they knew He that the core of his heart is Love. Thanks for your encouragement!

      Reply
  3. Linda

    Leanne, I can’t pass this blog by. Maybe I am not understanding your thoughts? If you believe what scripture says about salvation, return to it, read it, soak it in. Believing in God, believing that Jesus died for our sins is not enough. It is acceptance of that gift that changes our eternity, a personal relationship with Him that makes the distinction.(If I give you a gift and you never take it, the gift just sits, it is not yours until you accept it from me..) John 3:16-17 He sent His son for every one of us, a gift. Each of us must choose the gift, otherwise, there is no free will and our eternity is chosen for us. There is much I do not understand about scripture but this I do. In the end, it comes down to one question, Did you accept my Son, my gift for you, and His willing sacrifice for your soul, for your eternity? Scripture is clear, it is heaven or hell, no in between, no second chances. And yes, scripture says that hell is a place apart form the light, a place absent of God, a place of regret. If we all rely on scripture, not a version that fits our comfort level of who we hope God is, we will get it right and we will be able to confidently convey the message of the cross.

    Reply
    1. Leanne Post author

      Hi Linda! I 100% agree with you that choosing Jesus means you accept God’s gift of sacrifice for your sins. Absolutely! And He won’t force us to accept that gift; that’s part of His love for us–letting us choose Him or ourselves. Our lives transform when we not only accept that gift of grace, mercy and love, but when we choose to follow Jesus as our Lord for the rest of our lives. We can accept a gift and then put it up on a shelf, or we can use/live with that gift for its intention, right?

      What I am questioning is eternal Hell if you decide not to believe there is a gift waiting for you. If someone doesn’t even believe Jesus is real, then they won’t even understand there is a gift of life waiting for them. I am saying this doesn’t necessarily mean God is going to toss you into Hell for eternity. I am SO confident in Jesus, that when someone meets Him for the first time they will want to accept and respect the gift that came on that Cross. By the same token, I also believe Jesus’ death on the cross was so huge in the history of world that even unBelievers, those who don’t believe Jesus is real, are saved from eternal suffering in the Lake of Fire. They are still His children and He loves them even if they don’t believe; I trust that love is big enough to save over half the world who don’t know Him. It’s incomprehensible and scandalous; that’s why it’s so hard to swallow for many Christians. I don’t know.

      I don’t think the Bible is as clear about Heaven and Hell as we think it is. God has proven himself in my life not to be as black and white as I was taught. And I am not saying I am right or wrong. I think we’re all a little right and a little wrong in our interpretations (probably more than a little!), and we’ll continue to be until the day we come face-to-face with Him. In the meantime, I am suggesting that God’s love for us is so much bigger than we give Him credit for, and it’s that Love I pray will drive people closer Christ.

      I am not offended if you don’t want to share my blog; I appreciate your honesty about that. I knew this wouldn’t sit well with many, but I so appreciate you taking the time to engage in discussion and offer your insight. Much love and peace to you. <3

      Reply
  4. juliesteck

    Hey girl! I’m hearing you say you believe there is a Hell, yet based on your points it sounds like everyone is going to Heaven because Jesus’ death on the cross paid for everyone even if they don’t choose to believe it. So who then goes to Hell and how is that determined?

    Reply
    1. Leanne Post author

      Hey Julie! Thanks for listening and asking. I don’t know, but I think evil resides in Hell. I don’t know how God determines the criteria for Hell, but He’s clear about hating evil and fighting against it. “We do not fight against flesh and blood but against the principalities, against powers, against the rulers of darkness of this age…” This is the scripture that reminds me the spiritual realm is an active and effective part of our finite Earth, that there are things we don’t understand because they aren’t human. I don’t know how to eloquently and effectively connect all this, but Hell and evil and the spiritual realm all play a role in what we don’t fully understand.

      I do know people who aren’t Believers in Christ are not necessarily evil. My loved one was one of the most Christ-like people I had ever met, the furthest thing from evil.

      Does that answer what you were asking? I appreciate you asking. 🙂

      Reply
  5. Amy

    Hi Leanne,
    I am reading all these comments and I thought I would chime in. I believe in Jesus and in Heaven. I think that there is a place that is not heaven, but not sure it is hell. I read the bible as a historical document, rather then a literal one. There are too many contradictions and authors, as well as many editing decisions that have happened throughout history. I believe that God asks us to do as much good as we can, to as many people as we can, when we can. The basic task that God asks of us is to live a life that is consistant with the life of Jesus. I do not believe that Heaven excludes those who have never heard a Jesus or accepted him. You can’t accept what you do not know. This is just my rambling. Thanks for listening.

    Reply
    1. Leanne Post author

      Thanks for joining the conversation, Amy! I agree with you. For me the Bible has been translated so much in thousands of languages by fallible humans, so it is highly possible that we’ve (unintentionally) altered many instances what God was trying to say. Do I believe the Bible is the Word of God. Yes! Do I also believe that we humans have possibly mistranslated or misinterpreted God’s Word as we’ve translated over the centuries? Yes! You can pick any word–“believe” “eternal” “fear” etc.– and trace it back to the original language and Scripture reads so differently! When I studied the word “fear” and traced it back to an older language that actually means “reverence,” I replaced fear with reverence in the Scriptures that scared me half to death and got a whole different perspective…one that made me less afraid of God and closer to Him.

      As you say so well, God asks us to do as much good as we can… to live a life that is consistent with the life of Jesus. Amen! It always comes back to love for me. When I get confused or overwhelmed with all these big questions, I remember that all He’s commanded me to do is to love others as He has loved me. That’s it. Love is the central focus here and that is what I want folks to understand.

      Many thanks for your insight (not rambling), Amy! <3

      Reply
  6. sherriinsrq

    Thanks for posting this! It takes courage to share what goes against the grain. There is a lot of discussion right now about all of this. Here’s an interesting point – Christianity grew and spread for 300 years before the New Testament was even written down. People followed Jesus because he showed us – all of us – the Father’s Love. Religion tries to make this about what WE do, Jesus says – “I did everything already.”
    Andy Stanley from North Point in Arlanta has a great series right now called “Who Needs God”. Our church (Suncoast Community Church in Sarasota FL) did a big series recently called Theology of Love. You can watch online if you want.
    Our faith in Jesus is strong and solid enough to be questioned! Open minds – open hearts – it’s okay to look at this from all angles. It will hold.
    This was similar to my own experience. I needed love and grace, not fear. So glad I found my way. I believe those who are earnestly searching for more will find it in Christ. Especially is his followers show love. I think Jesus talked about this!
    Thanks for writing!
    Sherri

    Reply
    1. Leanne Post author

      Theology of Love… that sounds intriguing! I know I follow Jesus because he models divine love, and that’s the goal–love. When I take religion out and make my faith about Jesus himself, everything looks different. His death and resurrection take on an even deeper meaning than they ever have before! I agree with you that those who are searching will find what they need in Christ 100%. He is the Way! Thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment, Sherri!

      Reply
  7. Andrea Karen Kine

    Hey… did you fall and bump your head??? no just kidding 🙂 Every one reads the bible, everyone takes things out it in different ways as it speaks to each differently. You are right, that Jesus died that day to erase our sin, save us. But He had also left before that others ‘in charge’ of going forth into the world to spread the word, and baptize believers- this is what it says — Mark 16:15 NKJV
    “And He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.’”

    In this passage, Jesus is talking to His disciples who had not believed Mary Magdalene when she proclaimed His resurrection. He instructs them to go forth, sharing the Word of God and baptizing believers. He elaborates on the power of belief by telling the disciples that believers will be able to cast out demons, speak in new tongues, be immune to poison and heal the sick. Belief is a powerful thing.

    Now, he had ‘already died for our sins- saved us’— yet that is what baptism is… a rebirth, free of sin, a new life in Christ. Yet AFTER His death on the cross and his resurrection, He is having his disciples spread the word of Christ- the gospel to everyone and baptize believers. So that started the ‘tradition’ of baptism that holds today. Yes- when he died he died FOR OUR SINS we hadn’t made as we weren’t thought of, born. Our baptism , acceptance verbally of Christ into our lives removes the sins we as humans have made in our lives.

    I circled around my whole life hurt, lost, abused… wondering why as a kid every kid in my family got baptized but I didn’t. It was just something I guess no one thought of back then, or just forgot me as a young teen during confirmation… as I never went through that either. Decades later as an adult it was my choice… something I chose. And it wasn’t until after I felt a pull months before that I did. And when I did get accept Christ got baptized, released everything and knew I had a ‘clean slate’- not like some, to mess up again… but to KEEP CLEAN. My insides felt different after about two months…I was me, but changed, better, stronger…. I could see like it was the first time and for the first time ever in my life, the deep seeded hurt down inside I had… wasn’t there. It was gone. Everything I used to hold Jesus had, He took so that all I had to do was just live my life as He wanted me to- for Him.

    So reaffirming your life doesn’t take away what Jesus did on the cross- or he wouldn’t have had his disciples begin it at his resurrection ….. it is what He wanted, directed. Go forth into the world, spread the gospel and baptize believers. In otherwords… spread the word to EVERYONE in the hopes that every person who hears will then be baptized. Of course even then they couldn’t force people… just as now. It is a choice. Free will, god gave us all free will.

    🙂 I do believe in hell. I do believe that those who don’t follow Jesus will go there…. we all have to stand before God at some point….. 2 Corinthians 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. —- so it is God who has the final say in the end. So while here on earth, we should do , act and speak as if God is watching 100% of the time… because guess what… HE IS. Jesus is in our hearts and God is watching.

    Love u Leanne… I love that you are bold, direct and have your own opinions and aren’t afraid of speaking them…. It is what makes you YOU. <3

    Reply
    1. Leanne Post author

      Thanks for such a thorough and honest comment, Karen! I love your baptism story.

      One thing I love about Jesus is that we can be completely conflicted in front of Him and he’ll still show us mercy. In the story of the boy with the evil spirit, Jesus, after giving what feels like a brief lecture about unbelief, tells the father that anything is possible to him who believes. The father responds, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” Jesus drives out the spirit and the boy is healed. This is an encouraging story to me for me because Jesus shows mercy even in the midst of unbelief. Not only that, but if Jesus will show that kind of mercy to someone who is struggling with believing, then I am confident Jesus will show me mercy in my beliefs even when they are wrong.

      I pray that anyone who reads this post will take the message and their questions back to Jesus himself and ask Him to help them in their belief and unbelief. May God enlighten the hearts of those who seek.

      Thanks again, Karen! <3

      Reply

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