It’s sad that for many who do not understand Christianity, the popular Christian idea of going to heaven is very much like the fictional Elysium – a place or time where the privileged go and live blissfully while everyone else gets to live and die in misery. An unfortunate corollary of this understanding is the feeling some have that Christians are mainly in it “for the perks” – specifically the desire for eternal life.
Now the Bible does make it clear that Christian life leads to eventual blissful eternity, but even we ourselves can lose sight of the bigger picture if our focus is on being saved and living forever – we can come across to those who do not understand as “Elysium types.” The apostle Paul left us a clear summary of what our understanding should be in this regard. Notice what he told his assistant, Titus, about our life in Christ: “Remind the people … he saved us … so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:3-7).
So eternal life certainly is the Christian’s hope – but Paul continues by showing it doesn’t stop there: “… And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good” (Titus 3: 8). Paul tells us here that we who trust in an outcome of life that is even better than any "Elysium" need to devote ourselves to doing good – and “doing good” means to others, not to ourselves. Paul continues to stress this fact a few verses later: “Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good, in order to provide for urgent needs and not live unproductive lives” (Titus 3:14). In fact, the New International Version of the Bible titles the whole chapter of Titus 3 “Saved in order to Do Good”
It’s a basic truth found throughout the Bible. We see it everywhere and perhaps nowhere better summarized than in the Book of Psalms: “Turn away from evil and do good; so shall you dwell forever” (Psalm 37:27 ESV). We are called to much more than a life that turns from sin – we are called to doing good – and that’s not just the prologue, but also the purpose in this life and the next. Christianity does offer a wonderful afterlife; but we should be clear in our own minds, and in sharing the truth, that true religion involves not just “getting saved,” but also doing good wherever we can. “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world” (James 1:27). True religion is turning from sin and actively doing good. Real religion isn't just an entrance requirement for Elysium – it goes far beyond that.
* For more on this subject, see also the blog post “Why Were You Called?” here on our sister site, LivingWithFaith.org.