In most religions of the world, adherents are instructed to strive to do good in order to earn the right to an after-life of peace and enjoyment. At the end of your life, you are judged on how good you have been and weighed on how bad you have been to determine how or where you spend eternity.
The absoluteness of this may have brought about the teaching and belief in purgatory where people would have a chance to suffer for a while by paying for the bad things they did while they were on earth. This encouraged the giving of penance here on earth to reduce the time that will be spent in such a place.
This point brings me to something that Jesus didn’t say. He never said that there would be a place of temporary punishment before going to heaven
The eternal destiny of man was the reason why Jesus came. “I will not judge those who hear me but don’t obey me, for I have come to save the world and not to judge it.” (John 12:47)
All efforts by man to please God has failed and will continue to fail because no one has the ability to please God by good deeds. How do I know this? Thousands of years before Christ came, Isaiah the prophet proclaimed this fact, “We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags. Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall, and our sins sweep us away like the wind”. (Isaiah 64:6) Because of our sinful nature, man is incapable to doing good and according to the Prophet Isaiah, there is no way to measure the good we do because we are so entrenched in sin that even the good we do can only be compared to a filthy rag.
This was one area of struggle for the Pharisees and religious scholars while Jesus was here on earth. They believed so much in keeping of the law that they did not realise that Jesus Christ came to fulfil the law. No one could do enough to earn the right to become righteous in the presence of God but they thought that by ticking off every law you keep, it earns browny points for you in heaven while the sacrifices you make would take care of the short comings.
Imagine how affronted they must have felt when they heard John the Baptist proclaim publicly, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! (Jon 1:29) This was why Jesus came! He came on a rescue mission because we were all in this quicksand called sin and the more we strived to get out of it, the more we sank into it’s deathly clutches. The only way out, was to stretch our hands to the only one who could save us. It is not in trying to be good, fair or kind, although it is great to do these things, it is simply not enough to satisfy the requirements of God’s justice. The ultimate sacrifice had to be made so that we could be completely free to do those things - being good, kind and fair, not because we are trying to earn points with God but because we now have the nature of God by accepting Jesus as our personal Lord and Saviour.
Jesus didn’t say you should not speak out against wrong doing. There have been many instances where I have heard people say, “Do not judge” or “Who are you to judge me?” Some even quote scripture, “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged.” (Matthew 7:1) If you read further down the verse, it becomes clear that you cannot take this verse in isolation but need to understand the context. What Jesus was saying here is that the spirit with which you correct others is as important as the correction itself. If someone has done wrong and we approach them with harsh criticism, it will end up being counter productive. More importantly, when we are overly critical of others, we lose sight to our own weaknesses and propensity to sin. If however, we understand that we are all subject to the same weaknesses and that it is only by the grace of God that we are able to not only discern that the act is wrong but also to desist from doing it, our approach will be motivated by love and compassion rather than an inherent desire to bring the other person down out of a pure sense of indignation and morality.
There is so much that Jesus did not say which many seem to accept in absolute terms but if we take time to study scripture and meditate on it, we will come to the understanding of what He said and not be swayed by what he did not say which has become the norm for many people.
I leave you with the advice Paul gave to Timothy; “Study /and/ do your best to present yourself to God approved, a workman [tested by trial] who has no reason to be ashamed, accurately handling /and/ skillfully teaching the word of truth.” (1 Timothy 2:15)