Read 2 Corinthians 5:17-21
ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Then Peter came and said to him, ‘Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.’ (Matthew 18:21-22)
Have you ever pondered about heaven and hell? Often times they both seem so distant, they both seem so very far away. We all hang on to life, thinking that the longer we live the longer we can put off having to find out what lies beyond the great divide. Yet are heaven and hell that far away?
One day, while pondering on the nature of heaven and hell, I pictured hearing what Jesus would say about the two if he were living on earth today. What sort of parable would he tell, what kind of illustration would he use to describe the reality of heaven and hell? We all know the imagery he used in the New Testament; however, if Jesus were living on earth today, what example would he provide us? And then I thought of an event that had happened a while back and decided to put the exercise on paper. It went like this:
One day a man came up to Jesus and questioned him, “Rabbi, teach us of hell.”
Jesus looked deeply into the man’s eyes and began to answer in parables. “Hell is like a schoolhouse of Amish children. One day a man entered into the schoolhouse, lined up all the girls along the wall, and bound their ankles and hands together. He called his wife to say goodbye and then started shooting the girls in the back of the head, one by one. Finally, the man took his own life, leaving several Amish parents without their children, leaving his own children without their father, leaving his wife without a husband, and leaving his parents without a son.
In reaction to the incident, people around the nation began judging the man and his family. His face was shown all over the television with the words, ‘The Face of Evil‘ written underneath. People judged him as an evil person and before long such judgments would justify their harassing the killer’s wife and children.”
The man looked back at Jesus in utter astonishment. “What then of heaven, Rabbi,” he asked.
Jesus answered, “The Kingdom of Heaven is like the Amish parents who, after their children were mercilessly and brutally murdered by a gun man, met with the family of the murderer. They brought food, tears, and prayers to the killer’s wife’s door, sat with the wife and kids, ate with them and prayed with them. They said to the wife, ‘In our hearts we have already forgiven him.’ They also begged the wife, ‘Do not leave this area. Stay in your home here. We forgive this man.’”
While these words are obviously not the actual words of Jesus, I do believe that they are true insomuch as they shed light on the nature of heaven and hell. The fact of the matter is that hell, often times, surrounds us; however, as followers of Christ, we are called to be ambassadors of heaven. The Amish in the parable above, pulled from a real life event, acted as heavenly ambassadors would. Though they were the grieving victims of a heinous, evil crime, they chose to act out of love and forgiveness, rather than out of vengeance and hate. It may be a tall order but, as the Amish proved, it is not an impossible one. May the love of Christ permeate you so that you can show it even to your enemies.
THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Love seeketh not itself to please, nor for itself hath any care, but for another gives its ease, and builds a Heaven in Hell’s despair.” – William Blake
Lord, teach me to love, regardless of the cost. Just as I am forgiven, give me the humility and the strength to forgive. Amen.