Monday, July 31, 2006

What If? A Contemporary Parable


What if today you found yourself standing at the edge of a crowd assembled just outside the gates of Heaven? A heavey silence is in the air as if something quite unexpected is about to happen.

Suddenly, the gates of Heaven part and two heavenly beings (too small to be cherubim and with too few wings to be seraphim) make their way toward the crowd. Each of them seems to be carrying a clipboard and a pencil. As they meet each person, they appear to jot something on the clipboard and then seem to direct the recent interviewees into one of two lines. This is obviously to you as you assumed Heave would be a place of unity without lines and segregation. It is obvious as you observe the faces of those around that they are troubled, too. "This is Heaven, right?" you think to yourself. "What a ridiculous question- I remember the time and the place, and I even wrote it down in my Bible. I attended church faithfully, I taught Sunday School, I left tracts with my tips, I did the things I was supposed to and didn't do the things I was not supposed to. If that is not evidence of my faith, what could be?" These thoughts seem to add some comfort to your mind, yet those spirits keep making their way through the crowd, and the two lines keep growing- although the left line at a much higher rate than the right.

As those around you begin to realize what is going on, they begin to look a little uncomfortable, as well. The shifting of weight from one foot to another, the fussing of hair, and the fidgeting of fingers in pockets creates a deafening sound of silence that finally breaks as you nudge your beighbor (his name tag reads "Jack") and hoarsely whisper, "What's going on?" Jack shrugs in obvious ignorance, but some of your courage rubs off on him. He nudges his neighbor ("Joy") and soon the whole crowd is rumbling in a kind of holy thunder. A few moments pass- seconds, minutes, hours, months, you're not quite sure- and then Joy whispers something to Jack, and then Jack is at your ear. "It seems as if there have been changes in policy around here. Don't worry, we are difinitely in Heaven. It just appears that some adjustments have been made for the eternal accommodations of its guests," Jack whispers.

You swallow hard, relieved somewhat, but not yet entirely secure. Jack apparently senses your uneasiness and continues, "It appears that many of us have completely lost our appetite for the things of Heaven. Let's face it- not many Christians ever really enjoyed the few moments of prayer, worship, and service we experienced on earth. Not many of us really longed to linger in the presence of Christ and sit at His feet and rejoice in His glory. Those moments when we attempted to love our 'brother' always ended up so awkward, and sometimes forgiveness just felt so unfair- sometimes it might best to let the other guy weat it out a little, let him realize just how bad he is."

You ponder and nod, and Jack continues. "You have got to admit that it was difficult to trust Him down there. First, it's 'rejoice' and it's 'suffer,' next it's 'lost your life' and it's 'gain it'. Now, you're supposed to 'live' and then you're supposed to 'die.' It would have been nice if He could have just made up His mind, and let us get on with our lives- at least that is what some are saying. That's why He is making the change." You are getting impatient by now as you see only a handful of people left in the crowd and the beings are getting closer.

"What change!?" you blurt out in a voice one-decibel too loud for polite whispering. "Right, right, I'm getting to that," Jack continues. It seems that He has decided to finally catch up to the times and recognize the rights of each man's will. Democracy has achieved its greatest victory and He is giving in. Each of us will be given a choice it seems- and both of those are better than the alternative, if you know what I mean. Not that you can feel too sorry for them- they certainly deserve it. I wonder if they get choices down there...."

You are completely frustrated now, and just as you about to grab Jack by the collar and shake the answer out of im, one of the beings calls his name. You are the only one not yet being attended to. Joy was called just before Jack, and you watch as she happily makes her way to the short line. You take a deep breath and step forward in anticipation of your name being called.

The being calls your name, and you look into its face and then divert your eyes to its feet and then to the clipboard. "Welcome to Eternity," the voice states plainly. "You have been granted a final choice for your eternal satisfaction and pleasure. Close your eyes, and I will allow you to see one option of what Heaven could be. I will fill your mind with the images of every earthly pleasure and fantasy you have ever desired. Close them fast and dwell on all that would make you happy for all eternity. Close them and from darkness will ermerge every wish, every dream, every want fulfilled. This can be Heaven for you. A Heaven without want, but a Heaven without Him. Now open your eyes and look to the left. If this is your Heaven, join that line and it will be accomplished as you wish." You open your eyes and see Jack waving to you from the left line- the long line. The spirit speaks again, "Now, lift your eyes and see the Son of Man." You look up and see HIm, the One who came for you and died for you. You look up and see Jesus- that is all.


If heaven contained all the beauty and pleasures that one could imagine, but Christ wasn't there, would you still want to go? Lord, make us pilgrims and strangers to this world, and may Christ be the desire of our weary hearts.

Now, obviously, we know based upon the Scriptures, that a Heaven without Christ would still be a form of Hell. Obviously, Heaven is not this way. However, consider the words of this "parable" very carefully and ask yourself, "If heaven were this way, which line would I be choosing by how I'm living my life?"

Only one life, twill soon be past
Only what's done for Christ shall last.

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