I’m a missional gamer, and I believe in Jesus Christ. But that doesn’t mean I ask my friends to, and I definitely don’t make it a condition of the relationship. I believe people need to be met where they’re at, and I further believe God doesn’t damn people just because they’ve had bad experiences with the church or don’t subscribe to organized religion. I believe each person is saved by their beliefs and mindset, and by being the kind of person who gets along with God and wants to be a part of his kingdom and the work he is doing. If that doesn’t happen until after they’re dead, so be it. I don’t believe God puts a time limit on salvation, and so I don’t rush things. Many people who don’t consider themselves Christians will come to realize that they are more aligned with God and more receptive to his purposes than many who do call themselves followers of Christ. Like Rob Bell puts it, I believe that heaven and hell are states of being and of mind, not physical places that people go to. I believe that anyone who is in line with God’s purposes is already in heaven, and anyone who opposes them is already in hell – a hell of their own making. There’s no eternal punishment, no eternal salvation, other than what people choose for themselves, and they can choose at any time. That’s why I don’t push Jesus on my friends. I believe many of them are already saved, and while they might not realize it, I do.
Let me unpack that a bit. For me, heaven is being in harmony with God, and it starts here on Earth, with the choice to live a Godly life. Not a life of perfection, mind you, and there will be pain and suffering, but in the end there will be joy as well, and peace. The true gift of God is salvation here and now, not at some point in the future. Salvation is all about restored relationship, and if you have a restored relationship with God, you are already saved. If you don’t know you have a restored relationship with God, you might be missing out, but you’re still saved. Think of it like two lovers – they might know they are in love, or they might not realize until something happens. If you’re Christian, and you’re truly Christian, not just in name, you already know you’re in love with God. If you’re not Christian yet, you might still be in love with God, and just not know it. You might like life and beauty and truth and goodness, and be therefore ready to receive God like love at first sight – and he loves you too. It isn’t complicated. There’s no prayer you have to say, or act you have to perform, or organization you have to join. You’re just in love, and someday you’ll realize it. That’s what I believe.
If, on the other hand, you take joy in destruction, in violence, in cruelty, and in causing others pain, there is no place for you in the kingdom of God – at least not yet. If you’re living in opposition to God, you’re creating a hell for yourself, whether you call yourself Christian or not. The name you give yourself has no meaning, any more than calling yourself someone’s boyfriend or girlfriend makes it true. If you want to actually benefit from the relationship, you have to love them, and be in relationship with them. And if you love them – love God – and are so scared of admitting it or giving in to it that you are lashing out and hurting people, the only person you are really hurting is yourself. And that’s a personal hell. Not some eternal punishment enforced by a God of love who can do nothing other than welcome you back into his arms. We have the story of the prodigal son for a reason.
So if you notice that I don’t push God when I’m gaming, you’re absolutely right. I can tell my friends I think they’d be good with someone, but asking that person out is their prerogative. I’m overstepping my bounds if I try to force them to. And in the end, if they’re the kind of person that I’m friends with, in most cases I believe they’re already saved. My role, then, is not to save them, but to teach them to grow deeper in their relationship with God – a relationship that, in many cases, they might not even know exists.