“I am a Baptist.” “I am a Presbyterian.” Perhaps when spiritual conversation ebbs and flows around you, at one point the tide may bring you in, and all you can say is that you are a member of a denomination, or that your family has been of that denomination for years.
But when we appear before the Lord in Heaven, Jesus will not be asking us what denomination we belonged to. He will tell us to give an account of our lives to evaluate how we have responded to His Word. Obedience to His Word is high on His list of priorities for His people, so then how does our denomination come into play?
Well, we may have heard of the Beatitude that says, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.” When we read passages like this, we are to ask ourselves, “what KIND of Catholic/ Baptist/ Presbyterian/ Lutheran, etc., am I – am I the kind that is merciful to others when they bother or hurt me, or am I the kind who wants revenge, responds with a sharp word, or bears a grudge?”
Since we may not normally think in these terms, we’ll fall back on the familiar. We’ll swap unfamiliar words and phrases for familiar ones and so the verse becomes, “Blessed are the Catholics/ Baptists/ Presbyterians/ Lutherans, for they shall obtain mercy.” We may do this for all the Beatitudes, and miss the point of Jesus’ teaching. The point is that Jesus cares about what kind of person we are and not to which religious group we belong.
Joining a religious group did not immediately make you a merciful person, did it? When you talk to others in your group, you may have heard of instances where the member did not act in mercy, but in anger and lack of forgiveness. So it’s wrong to equate with being a member of a group with being of a particular kind of character.
When you (let’s suppose you are a Catholic) stand before King Jesus to give an account of your life, which kind of person do you want your life to show? A Catholic who is merciful, or a Catholic who bears grudges? Which one has responded to His Word and changed, and which one hasn’t? When Jesus sees two Catholics, one who has shown mercy, and one who has tended toward withholding forgiveness, which one will He pick for the greatest rewards of Heaven?