I had dinner with a Jew, a Muslim, and an Agnostic last night. Three sons of Abraham, and one who wasn’t sure, all sharing Italian food. Good times.
The conversation focused on the different faith’s beliefs about God, Jesus, and salvation. And it was a really great discussion—I even got to try out the Kingdom Circles approach. Each guy articulated his beliefs well, and there was respectful listening and solid questions from all parties.
My Muslim friend talked about his pursuit of the Way, following the Five Pillars of Islam and relying on the mercy of Allah at the end. My Jewish friend talked about the Mosaic Law and the Talmudic traditions and the growth that happens along the way of remaining God’s people. When my Agnostic friend stated his belief that all religions were helpful because they all promoted adherence to a moral code, I had the opportunity to talk about the breathtaking uniqueness of following Jesus: we enter the Kingdom by what He did for us rather than what we do for Him.
At this point, my Agnostic friend posed a very difficult question: why do Christians do good things then? Was it not to follow the teachings of the Bible and Jesus? Was it not to enter into heaven?
I knew the reasons Christians don’t do good things, but I struggled a little more with the reasons we do them. For the reasons we don’t: we don’t do good works to earn God’s favor (works-based salvation); we don’t do them to pay God back for what He did for us (debtor’s ethic); we don’t do them to atone for our sins or to be justified. But as I tried to articulate the reason we do good deeds, all I could come up with was that we do them because we love Jesus, and Jesus said if we love Him, we will obey His commandments.
I think that is right, but it’s also not complete. There are broader reasons we are to be doers of the Word (Jas 1:22):
To follow the Greatest Commandment(s) (Mt 22:37-9)
To bear fruit and glorify God (Jn 15:8)
To complete our faith (Jas 2:22)
To secure our reward (1 Cor 3:14)
To obey God (Num 16:28)
To fulfill God’s plan for our lives (Eph 2:10)
To provoke praise to God from others (Mt 5:16)
To show our works are carried out in God (Jn 3:21)
To store up treasure and take hold of true life (1 Tim 6:18-19)
How would you have answered?