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Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Debunking Heavenly Mythology VII: I Won’t Enjoy Heaven If So-and-So Isn’t There

There is a something about the generosity of spirit in this frequently-heard and more-frequently-unheard trope that I would hate to disparage.

After all, no less a friend of God than Moses once voiced something similar when God expressed a desire to wipe out Israel in the desert and “make a great nation” from the descendants of Moses. Some people might have been flattered at the compliment. Moses didn’t see it that way. He said to the Lord:
“Alas, this people has sinned a great sin. They have made for themselves gods of gold. But now, if you will forgive their sin — but if not, please blot me out of your book that you have written.” (Exodus 32:31-32)
He said, in effect, “If they’re going to be subject to your judgment, God, let me be subject to it with them”.

Generous, absolutely. Smart, maybe not so much. Not, perhaps, entire clear on what he was potentially letting himself in for. But we understand the sentiment, surely. I’ve felt like that about some people. Maybe you have too.

Fortunately for Moses, the Lord did not take him up on his offer.

The apostle Paul so loved the Jews — who persecuted him to his eventual execution — that he said:
“For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh.” (Romans 9:3)
Both Moses and Paul selflessly expressed the desire to trade their own blessings to ensure that others would have them — if that were possible.

It isn’t possible.

Moses was told so explicitly: “Whoever has sinned against me,” the Lord said, “I will blot out of my book.” Paul, I think, understood it all too well even as he expressed the sentiment. He doesn’t say “I wish”, but rather “I could wish”. He knew better.

There is no scenario under which a sinful man can trade his sinful self for another sinner. What we’re offering simply isn’t adequate.

There was one single person in the history of mankind who knew no sin, who did no sin, in whom was no sin. His offering for others was far more than adequate. And it is also available to us through faith.

But the offer, like most offers, is for a limited time only: “I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord God; so turn, and live.

So what about an eternity in which your favourite person, or mine, is not present? How will it look to us then?

I know how it looks now. I can’t imagine it. It’s a horrible thought. I see no comfort in Christian determinism; the idea that I have been ‘chosen’ and they have not, and that it could not have gone down any differently.

Doesn’t do a thing for me. Sorry.

I do take some comfort in this, though: 
“Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God.”
Every mouth will be stopped. When the Lord judges men, there will be no appeals. Not because the judge is unfair, but because every defendant will know that the judge is right; that his judgement is entirely fair and the penalty richly deserved.

But it says that “every” mouth will be stopped. I believe that includes those of us who are not under judgement ourselves, those of us who are mere onlookers. When those things about our loved ones that we never saw, understood or took into account are laid bare, we, too, will agree with the fairness of the Lord’s judgement.

I take comfort in that. That, and the fact that the judge of all the earth will “do right”. 

Bottom line: I trust the Lord’s assessment of the character and works of those I love more than I trust my own.

Do you?

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