For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. (John 3:16-18)
Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God remains upon him. (John 3:36)
So they said to him, “What can we do to accomplish the works of God?” Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent.” (John 6:28-29)
For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” But how can they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how can they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone to preach? And how can people preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring (the) good news!” (Romans 10:13-15)
A Matter of Life and Death. All of us are familiar with John 3:16, since it is the most popular sign held up at sporting events. We especially like the beginning, “For God so loved the world” because we know that includes us. But what about the ending words: “so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” Don’t these words tell us that those who do not believe in him will “perish” and not have eternal life. Jesus is even more specific in John 3:18. Those who believe “will not be condemned,” and those who do not believe are already condemned. In John 3:36, Jesus goes on to contrasts those who believe in him to those who disobey him. The former has eternal life; while those who disobey him “will not see life, but the wrath of God remains upon him.”
These are strong words, aren’t they? John is telling his people through Jesus’ words that belief in him is a life-and-death issue. What’s more, it’s a matter of eternal life with God versus eternal death and separation from God—and it depends on our own choices. God has given us the freedom both to respond to his invitation and to turn away from it.
At its core, the message of the Gospel really is quite simple. If we want to have eternal life with Jesus, we need to believe in him. This is so important that Jesus called it “the work of God” (John 6:29). Flowing from this belief, of course, is the need to do our best to follow his commandments. But as simple as it is, there are also layers of complexity to it. For example, St. Augustine used passages like these to teach that only a few people would make it to heaven. But another great Father of the Church, Origen, used these and other passages to teach that a great many people would be saved. In large part, it depended on how you understand the mercy of God and what it means to “believe” in the Son of God in the first place.
So what should we say, then, about this quandary? First, we really don’t know how many people will go to heaven. That is something only God can determine. And second, since we don’t know, we should make it one of our top priorities to testify to God’s love and to the promise of salvation to everyone we know. After all, it’s better to be safe than sorry—especially when it comes to matters of eternal life. If we don’t share it, the good news of Jesus Christ won’t be heard, and people will miss out on all the promises of God (Romans 10:14-15).
Start small. Make a list of people you know who seem far from the Lord. Intercede for them every day, asking the Lord to touch their hearts. Try also to develop an approach for reaching out to them in some way. Don’t sell yourself short! It is amazing how many people can be affected by the witness of one life lived in Christ. When the opportunity arises, invite them to a talk at the Church, to a men’s conference, or perhaps to join a men’s group or Bible study. With this combination of prayer, reaching out, example, testimony, and invitation, you really can see people’s lives change. Who knows? You may be instrumental in saving someone from eternal death.
“Holy Spirit, I want to share Christ’s love with the people around me. I ask for boldness and courage for this important mission. Help me to sow the seeds of the Gospel and to trust that you will cause the growth.”
(Maurice Blumberg was the founding Executive Director of the National Fellowship of Catholic Men (http://www.nfcmusa.org/), and is currently a Trustee. He is also the Director of Partner Relations for Partners in Evangelism, (http://www2.wau.org/partners/), a Ministry to the Military and Prisoners for The Word Among Us. Maurice can be contacted at email@example.com.)
[Many thanks to The Word Among Us (http://www.wau.org/) for allowing me to adapt some material from daily meditations in their monthly devotional magazine. Used with permission.]
Questions for Reflection/Discussion by Catholic Men
Take a few minutes to read and reflect on the Scriptures at the beginning of the article. What do they tell you about the critical need to “believe” in Jesus Christ?
1. Do you believe that belief in Jesus Christ is a matter of “life” and “death”? Why or why not?
2. Have you ever shared the good news of Jesus Christ with anyone? If so, did some say no to it? For those who welcomed it, what was the impact on their life?
3. What is your own experience with those who have witnessed to you about the Lord or tried to “evangelize” you?
4. The article describes a simple evangelization plan that includes prayer, reaching out, example, testimony, and invitation. What parts of this plan are you willing to implement? Which ones are you not willing to and why?
5. Are their additional ideas for evangelizing other men that you have used? What were the results?
6. Try implementing the plan outlined in the article, or your own modified one. If you are in a men’s group share the fruit of doing this at a future meeting.
7. Also, if you are in a men’s group, take some time at the end of your meeting to pray for one another that each of you would have the boldness and courage to share the good news of Jesus Christ with other men. Use the prayer at the end of the article as the starting point.