I’m finding more and more Christians all the time that believe … to be a good Christian and to go to heaven you must be an AA Christian. “AA” stands for attendance and abstinence. To go to heaven you must have faithful “attendance” in church (which includes singing, giving, communion, etc) and “abstain” from bad things (cheating, cussing, lying, etc). The good Christians who do the two “A’s” will go straight through the pearly gates.
I like that theology because it’s simple, but the more I read the bible and the more I listen to Jesus teach, the more I have a problem with the AA theology. One of the texts that have always challenged the AA theology is found in Matthew 25:31-46. It’s there that Jesus tells me about two groups of people. The first group on the right gets eternal life and is going to heaven. The second group on the left gets eternal punishment and is going to hell. What’s the difference in the two groups? Did the group on the right go to church every time the doors were open? Did they take communion every Sunday even if they had to stop on the road to do it? Did they always abstain from the bad stuff? AND, did the group on the left fail to attend all the services and abstain from everything?
Here’s what Jesus said about what the first group did right, “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’ “
And here’s what Jesus said the second group did wrong, “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
“He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
I’m not saying you don’t need to attend church services and I’m not saying it’s okay to do whatever we want morally. Attendance and abstinence are good, but they don’t make you a Christian, and neither will save you. Christianity wasn’t founded on the two A’s, but on a relationship with God, obedience to Him, and our service to others. I believe Jesus put it this way when he was asked what’s really important, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.”
So I need to ask myself …
- When was the last time I fed someone who was hungry?
- When was the last time I invited someone into my home?
- When was the last time I sat by a dying person?
- When was the last time I visited a nursing home?
- When was the last time I gave someone a second, third or fourth chance?
- When was the last time I offered forgiveness?
“Jesus never says to the poor, ‘Come find the church,’ but he says to those of us in the church, ‘Go into the world and find the poor, hungry, homeless, imprisoned.’ ”
“We can admire and worship Jesus without doing what he did. We can applaud what he preached and stood for without caring about the same things. We can adore his cross without taking up ours. I had come to see that the great tragedy in the church is not that rich Christians do not care about the poor but that rich Christians do not know the poor.” ~Shane Claiborne
- What do you think?
- Have you ever been taught AA Christianity?
- Have you ever bought into it or met someone who has?