The guy sat there at McDonald’s with bulky, noise cancelling headphones on that implied “don’t bother me, I’m in my own personal world”. Reaching out with the Gospel often means reaching into those worlds, so I waved my hand to get his attention and he looked very annoyed as he pulled off his headphones. But when I told him what I was doing and asked about his beliefs about eternity, his face changed into a confident, knowing smile as he showed me the playlist he had been listening to. It was a collection of new age “inspirational” music, and this was how he began to show me that he is a spiritual person, though he rejects organized religion.
His name was Alberto, and he was the second person I’ve talked to lately who have a quiet self-confidence in their own spirituality even though they reject historical religious faith. Alberto, an immigrant from Guatemala, finds meaning in inspirational music and the other guy, a businessman named Nick, finds his sense of spirituality when he gets out into nature. Both believe they are in a good relationship with the Divine because they love life and are thankful and appreciative of all that it has to offer them.
This fits a pattern of reasons why people believe they are “in” with their idea of God or a higher power. Many believe it is because of their good works; others because of their good heart or good intentions; many because of their correct theology or a salvation prayer they had prayed years ago; atheists because they are good without God (just in case they are wrong); some people because they are truly sorry for their sins; others because they have somehow mustered up enough faith. In the same way, these two believe they are good with God because, unlike many, they are truly thankful and happy with what they have. What all these people have in common is that their faith is based on something they think or do or have achieved. Why don’t they just have faith in Jesus?
No matter how special we think we might be, no matter how faithful, or repentant, or thankful, in Christ alone our hope is found. The great Gift, though priceless, comes without price. Only when we understand the magnitude of our sin do we realize how truly we don’t deserve Him. Only then can we be truly thankful.