I once believed the finding one’s way to salvation was a lifelong struggle filled with pitfalls and potholes strategically placed to trip you up in an effort to deny you your rightful place in heaven and ensure permanent residence in hell. My confusion about this had me questioning, if true, then how should one live a “Christian” life? I mean you’re not supposed to be able to earn your way into God’s presence. Faith dictates you accept the fact Jesus secured that for the faithful when He died on the cross. Please be mindful I do not claim unique spiritual insight on this issue. I’m sure my dilemma can easily be resolved by more mature Christians than me, who would deem this rather elementary.

So since faith without works is supposed to be bogus and simple faith alone won’t get you into the kingdom, I ask again, how should you approach living your life? I’ve often said in this column in this stage of my spiritual development (because I believe it) the best anyone can do is to try and live a life that honors God — a life that, by example, can be seen from afar as one trying to emulate that of Christ Jesus.

“Each one should use whatever gift he has to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.” 1 Peter 4:10.

Now I know that sounds simple enough, but my experience has said it’s far from easy — sort of like knowing the difference between owning a home and renting an apartment. The truth is people take care of something they own much differently than something they’ll walk away from one day, or return or pass along to someone else. Hence to take ownership of one’s own soul demands a different approach to life than someone who mindlessly abdicates any responsibility for where he or she will spend eternity. Until you realize throughout history, men and women of God have been persecuted and murdered, you will not understand how dangerous it is to live a life of peace, mercy, forgiveness, charity and justice.

“He showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you; to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah: 6-8.

This walk although rewarding, is still treacherous — fraught with perils unimaginable to the innocent eye. Who would question what God has said?

“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” Ephesians: 4:31-32.

Is this really living dangerously or is it so radical a concept we ignore it, preferring a life of gossip, revenge, cynicism and pride? So at the risk of ridicule and criticism, a life built around belief in God should be the ultimate goal. It should be okay to turn the other cheek, give the benefit of the doubt and respect another’s right to be different. God’s purpose, albeit difficult at times, is easily understood.

“Be on guard; stand firm in faith; be men of courage; be strong. Do everything in love.” 1 Corinthians 16:13-14.

Remember, you are responsible for your own soul. You are your own landlord. Building maintenance and cleanup is up to you. You are not a renter here. Anyone who you invite in should leave your presence, your home, with the knowledge an honest attempt is being made by you to be truthful in the effort to claim your own salvation. This is imperative and answers the question of how you should live.

“Let me live that I may praise you, and may your laws sustain me.” Psalms 119:175.

May God bless and keep you always.

James A. Washington is publisher of the Dallas Weekly. He can be reached at dallasweekly.com.

James A. Washington is publisher of the Dallas Weekly. He can be reached at dallasweekly.com.

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