Monday, July 15, 2013
YOU MEAN THOSE PEOPLE ARE GOING TO HEAVEN, TOO?!
What is the measure of one’s Christianity, of one’s devotion to the way of our Lord? How do I know if I am indeed following the way of Jesus? How do I know, to put it in vague and often misunderstood terms, how good a Christian I am?
Wise people have been searching for such a measure since Jesus walked physically on this earth, and since long before then if we take in the full implications of Jesus as God. While the search has been fruitful, the results have been disappointing, or at least frustrating, because there is no
measure of one’s devotion to our Lord.
Instead, there are many yardsticks by which we can tell if we are
following the right path.
One of my favorite such measurements, despite (or maybe because of) its being one of the scariest is the following:
How do you, or how will you, react to the news that heaven is going to be populated, to a large extent, by people you vehemently disagree with on some very important issues, don’t like in the least, and/or you simply can’t stand being around?
If you are a card carrying conservative Republican, you are going to be sharing heaven with a lot of card carrying liberal Democrats, and vice-versa. If you are adamantly, unshakably pro-choice, you are going to be sharing heaven with plenty of people who are adamantly, unshakably pro-life, and vice-versa. If you are a staunch defender of the 2nd Amendment, you are going to be sharing heaven with a lot of people who wish that Mr. Madison had taken the day off when that amendment was written, and vice-versa. If you are white and don’t like blacks moving into your neighborhood, you are going to be sharing eternity with plenty of blacks, and vice-versa. If you are Catholic and think that only those who follow
are going to make it past St. Peter, guess what? There will be a LOT of Protestants in
heaven…and vice-versa. And, perhaps most controversially of all for
many who share my belief in Jesus as my God, Lord, and Savior, if you are
Christian and are absolutely convinced only Christians go to heaven, you are
going to have plenty of Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and people of no
particular faith as neighbors for eternity.
(See my 11/14/12
post, YOU MEAN NON-CHRISTIANS DON’T GET
TO COME TO HEAVEN?, http://insightfulpontificator.blogspot.com/2012/11/you-mean-non-christians-dont-get-to.html) And if you are any of the aforementioned and
are convinced that Christians are badly misguided in our belief that Jesus is
God, you better get used to us, because we’re going to be living with you for
If you are a Bear fan, you’re going to be keeping company with plenty of Packer fans in the Great Upstairs, and vice-versa. If you get misty-eyed whenever you get within 100 miles of South Bend, I almost hate to break it to you, but there will be plenty of Trojan, Spartan, Wolverine, and Crimson Tide fanatics in the seats next to you in the Great Stadium in the sky, and vice-versa, and John, Duffy, Bo, and Bear will be sharing the assistant coaching duties with Knute and Frank. And, perhaps the worst news of all to many of my friends, if you are Sox fan, there will be plenty of Cub fans passing you your Old Style down the eternal aisle…and vice versa. Finally, and one that hits home, those of us who simply cannot stand being around people who pay scant, if any, attention to their personal hygiene will find ourselves with plenty of heavenly neighbors who think nothing of skipping the toothbrush or the shower for days on end. (But, Lord, I hope that part of the admission drill is an eternity long ration of soap, deodorant, toothpaste, mouthwash, etc. and a quick lesson their proper, and frequent, use!)
Simply put, God doesn’t look for ways to exclude people; He, or She, looks for ways to include people. The last thing He, or She, wants is to be separated from any of His, or Her, children for ETERNITY. What parent would even want to consider, let alone be pleased with and/or seek, such an outcome? While many of us think we have all the answers, none of us has the answer as to how God can forgive so magnanimously and welcome so enthusiastically and how He, or She, considers matters we think so vital or mere quibbles over arcane and ultimately meaningless doctrine, preferences, or prejudices…
“…as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.” Psalm 103:12
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.” Isaiah 55:8
Very importantly, perhaps especially for us Christians, is that God was speaking to believers when He, or She, said these things through the psalmist and the prophet. S/He was pointing out how far His or Her thoughts are from those even of believers, and how he forgave the transgressions of believers, which presupposes acknowledgement that believers do indeed commit transgressions.
That God is so inclusive and so forgiving should be very good news for all of us. But many of us, if we are honest with ourselves, do not like the idea of sharing heaven with “those people,” whoever they may be, who don’t “deserve it,” like we do. I would bet heavily, if I were a betting man, that just about all of us have this attitude; the only question is the matter of degree to which we have it. The extent to which we have the “You mean they’re going to be there too?!!!” attitude is the extent to which we have work to do if we are to get in line with God.
Indeed, that God is so inclusive and so forgiving should be very good news for all of us, especially for those of us who, in our hearts of hearts, don’t like the idea of His being so inclusive and forgiving…because we are neither inclusive nor forgiving.