Faith is a mystery. Why some of us have faith and others don't I have no idea. My parents took me to church when I was very small, but stopped going before I started school. But somehow, my heart felt at home there, and when I was big enough to walk there on my own, I did. Despite my many, many flaws I became a doctor to work toward my goal to live the ideals taught by Christ: Heal the sick, feed the poor, work for justice.
One of my favorite patients is an atheist. She firmly believes that since there is no afterlife, one must achieve everything possible in THIS lifetime. She became a legal aide lawyer to achieve her ideals: Lift up the downtrodden, work for justice, proclaim liberty to the captives - in other words, to live the ideals taught by Christ.
Of course, she doesn't see it that way, and might even be offended by the comparison, not that it makes it any less true for all of that.
If she doesn't believe in any afterlife or higher power, why is she so passionate about the need to serve? Why do I feel so passionate about what I do when I know 'doing' isn't truly necessary to arrive in the afterlife, given my faith?
Jesus' life was THE roadmap of what we could become. He gave, and gave and gave over and over. He healed. He reconciled. He fed. He taught. He freed. He set a phenomenal, unforgettable example of what God intended us to be, and sent His Spirit to help us become His hands in this world.
I was raised in a pretty fundamental environment. By all I was taught, my patient, despite her life choices, will arrive in hell at the moment of her death. And those who profess faith in Christ but vote to take food away from hungry children will go straight to heaven.
But there are those verses regarding separating the sheep from the goats on the basis of "When I was hungry you fed me, and when I was thirsty you gave me drink, and when I was in prison you visited me...." These things happen at the final judgment, after, I assume, we're dead. Jesus clearly told his disciples that he had sheep in 'other folds.'
My faith is pretty broad. I serve the Lord, not (only) because I hope to go to heaven but because it is the right, just, fair thing. I have long suspected that on the last day we will be surprised, deeply surprised, by which of us get Sheep awards, and which get Goats. The Bible says that God did not send his Son into the world to condemn it, but to save it. In that eye-opening moment when we see what God has seen - "I was sick, and in prison, and you visited me" - we will see what the Gift Divine has accomplished.
I am grateful for the opportunities my life has given me to serve.