Romans 2:14-15 Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.
To my knowledge this is just about the only passage in the whole Bible that hints at being right with God apart from direct faith in Jesus Christ. The only other one is Jesus’ statement that “He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives the one who sent me.” (Matthew 10:40) On the other side we have Jesus’ uneqivocal statement that “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) That leaves us having to let God be the judge of who is saved and who isn’t, and that’s a good thing. We tend to set up litmus tests about this, that, or the other, as though we were the final arbiter when if we were, it would be tragic! God alone sees people’s hearts, as the Bible reminds us. (1 Samuel 16:7) So what then? We are responsible for our own relationship with God, and for making a right relationship with God available to as many people as possible. That means living out the truth we know and not just giving it lip service, and at the same time expressing that truth to others, under the anointing of the Holy Spirit. That is what personal evangelism is all about. We aren’t to go around deciding whether people are saved, but we are to make it as easy as possible for them to be saved, through repentance and faith.
This is, of course, of intense interest to me as I minister in Japan. A smaller percentage of people are active Christians in Japan than in Pakistan! There is no active persecution here at all, and general public behavior sometimes seems more “Christian” than that observed in traditionally Christian countries. However, the vast majority of people have no personal faith, and only go through religious motions or rituals out of tradition or obligation. (Actually, that could be said for some nominally Christian countries as well!) That leaves people with a spiritual void, but they have great reluctance to go against what they see as family loyalty. There is a term that is often used in Japan that is translated into English as “filial piety,” but few if any English speakers have any emotional connection to what that might mean. Changing religions is seen as disloyal, and loyalty is one of the highest, if not the highest, virtue in Japan. I believe there are very many “hidden Christians” in Japan who believe that Christianity is the true religion but are afraid to be open about it. That brings them up against Jesus’ statement that “If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.” (Luke 9:26) So I am left with proclaiming the Gospel and living it out, inviting as many as will to join me in that, and leaving everything else to God.
Father, this is something You know I’ve struggled with over the years, particularly when so many people have received us warmly, yet have not become Christians. (Matthew 10:40) I continue to pray for a massive, open harvest, and I also pray for peace and endurance until that happens, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!