Faith is not a Zero-Sum Game

We must understand love is not something we generate ourselves. Each of us merely dilates our soul so it might become receptive to the gift God Himself desires to give us.

Some individuals have an unfortunate misconception about the journey of faith.

It goes something like this.

We are fallen creatures. We are born with original sin, and we are subject, throughout life, to our personal sins. We are purified through baptism in the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Our response to this gift is to labor to accept the grace and mercy offered by God, and to allow Him to return us to our intended condition. After this, we may enter heaven.

The problem with this concept is that it is not very inspiring.

It is true that once we die and are cleansed of all the wounds of our sins, we will be granted eternal life. But our eternal destiny must be something more than just a return to the start, a mere purification of our sins. There must be something more that will define us for eternity.

After all, even our worldly endeavors provide identifiable and desirable benefits for the sacrifice of our time and energy. Activities such as physical fitness, learning to play a musical instrument, building a business, or raising a loving family, all reward us with something for our efforts.

Who would find it desirable to make sacrifices and undertake significant labors, in the spiritual journey, only to return to the condition God originally intended for us, albeit absent our sins?

Now we should not be deceived about the seriousness of our current condition. There is a great wound in our fallen human nature that must be purified and healed. Jesus told us this Himself.

And he said, “What comes out of a man is what defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, fornication, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a man.”

– Mark 7:20-23

And we should not delude ourselves about the serious consequences of our fallen condition; any of the sins above are sufficient to bar a soul from entering the Kingdom of God.

But nothing unclean shall enter it, nor any one who practices abomination or falsehood, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

– Revelation 21:27

Every human soul must be made perfectly clean before it is allowed to gain entry through the eternal gates. In that sense, we will all be the same, no one will be marred by anything unclean.

But the journey of faith is not merely about eliminating what prevents us from being in the presence of God. For there is something of immense value in what we will inherit in eternal life. This treasure warrants more than just the purification and healing of our souls.

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.

– Matthew 13:45-46

Getting ourselves cleaned up before entering eternity is only half the story. The rest is about how each of us have the opportunity to become someone during our earthly journey. It is about the degree to which we are transformed into Christ; and in this, we will not all be the same.

Throughout our life we are all given countless opportunities to participate in the work of our own and other’s salvation. Through our individual participation in acts of charity, prayer, penance, attendance at religious services, and yes, patient acceptance of our trials and suffering — all done in love, we not only help wipe away our sins,

Above all hold unfailing your love for one another, since love covers a multitude of sins.

– 1 Peter 4:8

But we also continuously acquire an abundance of the one virtue that will define us for all eternity.

Love never ends…

– 1 Corinthians 13:8

And we must understand that love is not something we generate ourselves. Our participation in virtuous activities are rather our preparation. They are merely the means of dilating our souls so they might become wider, larger, or more open to receive the gift God desires to give us.

And hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

– Romans 5:5

When we offer our entire selves and all our life to the Lord, we allow Him to transform us into Himself — into love itself, and we contribute to our individual degree of glory in heaven.

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

– 2 Corinthians 3:18

If we focus on the exercise of love, we need not worry about removing the stains of sin.

But more than that, we must desire and seek to be totally transformed into love, a condition where, like Christ, every thought, word and deed becomes an expression of love.

Faith is not a zero-sum game. Our eternal destiny is not a math formula where the only objective is to get back to the status quo.

Our faith journey and eternal destiny will be filled with poetry and music and light and color. In heaven, there will be a spectacular array of beauty in the tapestry crafted by the Master Artist.

Which strokes of the Artist’s brush will we allow ourselves to become?

God Bless

Article Copyright © Deacon Mark Danis

Image credit: Photo © by Michael Bickerstaff

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