In the movie Avengers: Infinity War, the supervillain, Thanos, presents his “adopted” daughter with a double-ended blade. Balancing it on his finger, he notes it’s “perfectly balanced, as all things should be.” Maybe Thanos’ vision for the universe is balanced, but when it comes to Allah’s judgement on your fate, you don’t want balance—you want the scales to tip in your favor. At least, that’s what Muslims want.
Islam has a merit-based system of salvation. Whether you enter into paradise or not is based on your works. Two angels follow you during your life. One angel tracks your good deeds and another tracks your bad deeds. At the final resurrection, all of your good and bad deeds are placed on a scale (surah 21:47, 7:8–9). If your good deeds outweigh your bad deeds, you go to paradise. If your bad deeds outweigh your good deeds, you go to Hell. Although some Muslims tell me that additional factors can play a role in your destiny, they confirm that the Islamic system of salvation is based on individual merit.
The Christian Scriptures teach something similar. God is also going to judge each person according to their deeds. The arbitration is stricter, however. Christian theology teaches that you are disqualified from Heaven if you commit even a single crime. You could live a life that most people would characterize as good but still be guilty and deserve judgment. That means good people can’t go to Heaven. Only perfect people go to Heaven. With this system, no person on the planet would make the cut. That’s bad news.
The good news is that God loves the people He created and doesn’t want them to be banished from His presence. He offers a pardon for those who commit crimes against Him. The pardon works by substituting someone else to incur your punishment (1 Pet. 2:24). Instead of paying for own your crimes, someone else does.
It’s no ordinary person who takes your place, though. It’s a divine person, Jesus. He lived a perfect life (even Islamic sources affirm) on your behalf. Therefore, not only is your criminal record wiped clean, but His flawless behavior is credited to your “account.” When God judges your life, He bases His decision on the performance of the substitute. With all good deeds and no bad deeds, your record is perfect.
For the Muslim who is concerned about which way the balance scale will tip, this is great news. Jesus’ substitution in your place affects both sides of the scale. His death cancels all your bad behavior, eliminating the weight of your bad deeds. His perfect life weighs down the side that measures your good deeds. With no bad deeds on one side and all good deeds on the other, the scale of justice is tipped in your favor. You don’t have to wonder about your destiny. Jesus takes care of both sides of the ledger.
How can you receive this pardon? It requires a trade. Jesus takes your place. As your substitute, He incurs your punishment and provides you with a perfect record. In return, you turn over the ownership of your life to God. You’re no longer in charge. God directs your destiny.
To be clear, that’s not easy. It is good, though. After all, the God who directs your destiny is the One who knew you before He formed you in the womb (Jer. 1:5). He cares for you. He wants the best for you. He loves you (Jn. 3:16). He’s worthy of your trust.
There’s an additional bonus that comes with God’s offer. Since your pardon is based on the perfect life of Jesus, there’s no longer a need to produce good deeds to earn God’s favor. In Islam, angels record your deeds and Allah weighs them in the end. Muslims spend their lives pursuing good works and following the Five Pillars—required rituals intended to earn God’s favor. If you trust Jesus to stand in your place, however, you no longer need to produce good works to merit eternal life. You are free from the bondage of a life striving to earn God’s favor. You never could do it, anyway. Remember, God requires perfection.
Thankfully, if you trust Jesus to be your substitute, meeting the standard of perfection is possible. God will cancel your crimes and credit your account with Jesus’ record. That’s a promise that will tip the balance in your favor.