“Guess what? Dad’s soul is in heaven! But I think we’d best stop sharing the gospel with the rest of the family.”
Jenny sat opposite me in the smoky, crowded train. At the end of a long day, my thoughts had been on home, but were abruptly pulled toward greater matters.
By the time Jenny and I became good friends, Mr Zhang had been buried for several months. Actually, his body had been cremated, as the law required. His coffin was buried in the hills near their home village. The ‘superstitious’ village relatives supposed that the coffin contained the decaying body of their esteemed relative, rather than an urn of ashes and several bricks.
Mr Zhang’s reputation was well known. A more upright and honest man could not be found. Truly, if ever a man ‘deserved’ salvation based on merit, it was Mr Zhang.
As the train bumped towards home, Jenny leaned forward in excitement. Dark hair framed her heart shaped face and her usually sleepy eyes came to life.
“Last weekend, we went back to our village to be with our family for the three-year anniversary of our father’s death. Now the period of mourning is over, we can wear bright colours again – do you like my new red sweater? I have more reason than most to celebrate.
“We visited the grave, burnt paper money and left offerings of food, supposedly for Dad to use in the after-life. Afterwards, we all went back to our uncle’s house. While our aunts and mother prepared the huge pot of noodles, our old uncle called we younger ones together.
“It is time you understood the truth,” number five uncle said solemnly. Sitting on the little wooden stools in the mud brick house, we listened respectfully, never dreaming that we were about to hear that unbelievably wonderful news…. Our father’s soul is in heaven.
Our old uncle continued, his wrinkled face more solemn than ever. “During the political climate of the last few decades, we were not willing to teach you of our village’s religion, for fear that you would be sent away for re-education, or held back in your careers. Now that our country is stable again, it is time you knew of your heritage.”
“There is one God who is supreme above all gods. We don’t know His name, and no image is ever to be made of Him. He controls the forces of nature. He calls us to live good lives. Only by living perfectly according to our consciences can our souls live on in peace and happiness. If we live poorly, our souls are destined for eternal torture.”
Uncle’s voice rose as he reached his climax. “Perhaps it is not too late. You are good people. Live well, like your father. His soul is most certainly at peace now, and very much alive. He wants you to join him one day. But you must live exactly according to your conscience, never straying one hair’s breadth from the Law which the God of the Heavens has placed in your heart.”
The train jolted into the next station, and Jenny looked out the window, fighting back tears. “So Dad is not lost to us. We are saved through Jesus. Romans tells us that those who haven’t heard are saved by living according to their consciences. God in His mercy never allowed Dad to hear about Jesus. Had he heard, he would surely have rejected the notion that God could become man. But he didn’t hear, and so he is in heaven now.”
How do you tell a woman that ALL have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory? I couldn’t … and didn’t. What I did tell her, however, is that Jesus is the only sure way to God. I urged her to share with her relatives the good news. I urged her to give them the chance to believe … to ensure that their souls will live forever.
Several months ago, Jenny’s mother died. Her soul’s destiny is sure. Jenny had led her to the Saviour as she lay on her deathbed.
Why hadn’t the generations before Jenny heard of Jesus? Why hadn’t Christians spread their faith further afield in time to lead Mr Zhang to salvation?
Two millennia ago, Jesus commanded that the gospel be taken to the whole world.
I don’t understand……
We can’t relive the past. It is today.
What would God have us do to take the gospel to those who have never heard?
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