How Do I Respond to a Friend Who Thinks People Who Don’t Know Jesus But Have Good Hearts Go to Heaven?

Question from a reader:

My best friend, who is struggling with her faith, asked me how Christians can believe they are the only ones going to Heaven. She has so many native American friends who are good people who treat others and the earth with utmost respect. She questioned how God would not allow them to go to Heaven when they die just because they don’t know or believe in Jesus, even though they have good hearts and show respectful love to all. Do you have any words of wisdom?

Answer from Stephanie Anderson, EPM staff:

Your message about your friend’s questions reminded me of something I read years ago in Andy Stanley’s booklet “How Good Is Good Enough?” In it he shares a story about buying a car, and later discovering that one of his young children had scratched her initials on the hood.

He writes, “To think that being good will somehow make you square with God would be like Allie promising to clean up her room after being confronted with the damage she had done to my car. Cleaning up her room doesn’t pay me back. It’s a nice gesture, but it doesn’t fix my car.”

That metaphor of a child offering to clean their room to try to fix the problem has always stuck with me. People can live “good lives” but ultimately the problem is how our sinful nature alienates us from God. No amount of good deeds can bridge the gap between us and Him. If simply showing respectful love to others could save us, then we wouldn’t need a Savior, and Jesus didn’t need to die on the cross to pay for our sins. People who choose a life here apart from God, regardless of how well they behave, are also choosing to enter eternity without Him.

God defines what a “good heart” is, and His standard is perfection, something we could never, ever achieve on our own. Nothing less than accepting His offer of salvation and trusting His ability to cleanse our hearts will suffice.

You might like to check out this article and video from Randy: What About Those Who’ve Never Heard the Good News of Jesus?

Randy’s daughter Karina wrote this response to a similar question. Here’s part of what she explained:

It’s arrogant for me to say that I have the only way to God, right? Sure is, if I’m the one who came up with the idea. But if God says there’s only one way to eternal life, then I had better listen. And I had better tell others, too. Jesus said, ‘I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me’ (John 14:6). That seems like a narrow-minded version of the truth. But when you think about it, God is a whole lot smarter than you or me. Just because we don’t understand His way of doing things, doesn’t mean that God made a mistake. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:9).

I hope this gives you some things to think about and share with your friend.

Photo by REGINE THOLEN on Unsplash

Stephanie Anderson is the communications and graphics specialist at Eternal Perspective Ministries. 

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