the unbroken rubber band

Every Christian has questions. For some, “mysterious ways” will suffice when all else fails. That one never worked for me, even when I was a kid. I had all kinds of these questions for my parents because I was a kid who pored over the Bible, loved Sunday School and Vacation Bible School, and reveled in the freedom and even encouragement I was given to ask questions. (I will never stop being grateful to my parents for this.) How was it fair for God to harden Pharaoh’s heart? Didn’t that make it God’s fault that all the Egyptian babies were killed in the last plague? How was it fair to stone an entire family, even the children, for something that one person did? How could God send people to hell if they lived in places where Jesus was never even heard of? These types of questions will be the subjects of future posts on this blog, I’m sure.

I had another question that was never answered to my satisfaction. I was raised with the “once saved, always saved” theology. For those who might not know, this means that once you accept Jesus as your savior, you are saved and bound for heaven, no matter what else happens in your life. It’s kind of the flip-side of the Catholic (mostly) view that you can lose your salvation, leading to guilt, emphasizing “works” instead of faith, and so on.

I asked my parents, “What if a saved person stops believing in God? Do they still go to heaven?”

The answer I got from my parents, and from other people later in life, was that a person who truly had Jesus in her heart could never stop believing, or would at least start believing again eventually. If someone gave up on God, they were never really saved to begin with.

“What if the person died in a car accident before they could start believing again?” I asked. I was an annoying child.

God knows people’s hearts, I was told. God would know if that person was saved and would have come back to him.

My dad has always been a genius at telling stories and coming up with metaphors for difficult ideas. For this, he told me to imagine an invisible rubber band between a saved person and God. If a person is really, truly saved (I have to keep emphasizing this), that rubber band can never be broken. It might be stretched at times if the person stops believing or does bad things, but that connection is never lost.

It never worked for me, and because I also didn’t believe in salvation being always insecure, I didn’t know what to think. It eventually stopped bothering me because I stopped believing in hell when I was in college (one of the very first old beliefs to go). But I never imagined that my nagging question would someday apply to me.

I guess some Christians would say that I’m no longer saved because I rejected God’s salvation; for them, there is no rubber band, but a cord that can be severed. Others would say that I wasn’t really saved, that God didn’t lasso me with his rubber band. Still others would say that a lot can happen in a person’s life, and how do I know that I won’t return to God and prove that the rubber band truly never breaks?

I no longer believe in God, but I do believe in that rubber band. It’s the stretchable cord inside us that connects us to our moral center. For some people, that moral center is – and must be – God. For others, it’s the desire to be good and loving to our fellow human beings. Some people stretch the band so far that it just cannot hold. Some even delight in hearing the snap! when it breaks. The rest of us stretch it at times, but we hold onto it. Whether it’s the fear of God and/or the simple desire to be a good person, we place value and meaning on that moral center.

With it we are saved, and without it we are lost.

(This post is not about the possibility or definition of morality without God. I know that’s a big topic, but honestly, I never understood the problem even when I was a Christian. It’s not something I’m interested in getting into with this post, though if anyone actually reads this and wants to talk about it in the comments, that’s fine.)

 

2 Comments

  1. Stephanie

    Yes, please keep writing! I find this topic fascinating. I don’t know much about salvation, or any religion specifically, so I find this very interesting.

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