1/2/2015 George, Joshua mid 30’s
Spent an hour chatting at a coffeeshop with George, a Catholic who believes he will go to purgatory when he dies, and Joshua, an agnostic who says he doesn’t care what happens after he dies, one way or the other. The two are longtime friends but really hadn’t talked about their beliefs, and when Josh found out about George’s belief in purgatory, he was adamant in saying that purgatory was a cop out, that if there really is a God then He would be wise enough to know who truly deserves hell and who deserves heaven, and He wouldn’t have to compromise by sending people to purgatory. As it turned out, Joshua believes God would know his heart and know that he is really a good guy, despite his unbelief. In other words, the real reason Joshua doesn’t worry about the next life is because he believes he is a shoe-in for heaven! His friend George’s belief in purgatory threatens that assumption, and makes him think he might have to be punished after all, at least for a while. I can see why purgatory was an attractive teaching for the Catholic Church when it was introduced in the middle ages – it can be an effective way to control agnostics like Joshua who don’t respect religious beliefs. Problem is, though, it’s not biblical. It devalues the work of Jesus on the cross – as if Jesus’ sacrifice was not sufficient to pay the just punishment for our sins and we have to add to it in order to be forgiven. But what can one add to infinity? Jesus took the punishment for all who trust Him, as written in Colossians 2 - “When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross.” As Jesus’ last words on the cross remind us “It is finished” Our sin has been washed away. There is no death, or crying, or pain, or purgatory. Our debt has been paid in full!