Monday, October 25, 2010

What to say at the Pearly Gates

If a street evangelist should ask you if you are saved, just answer, “No, and neither are you.” (That is sure to spark an interesting conversation.) The truth is that you are not saved, and neither is the imaginary street preacher. Nor am I. By this I mean that the “I” and the “you” cannot be saved. The “I” and the “you” are what must be lost in order to be saved.

One of the most pervasive misunderstandings concerning the Kingdom of God is that it is populated by little “I”s and “you”s - little “me”s that possess private mansions in the sky in which to store “my” heavenly treasures. The mansion is our Father’s house, and he is our treasure.

There are no “I”s and “you”s in heaven. That would be hell. I can imagine nothing worse than living with this ego of mine for all eternity. I am sick and tired of it already; I cannot wait to shed it!

When one is “born again” (to use another misunderstood concept) the “I” dies in order for eternal life to be gained. “I” and “you” cannot inherit eternal life, any more than flesh and blood can. Only God has eternal life. We only share in it when we are God’s. Salvation is not something that we possess; it is something – or more accurately Someone – who possesses us.

Jesus said that you have to lose your life to gain it, and that you have to lose your soul to save it. The apostle Paul described this condition as being “in Christ.” There is no room for “I” and “you” in Christ. “Christ is all in all.” To be in Christ you have to leave yourself outside. Paul explained, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.”

Picture the clichéd Pearly Gates and Saint Pete standing guard – just like in all those newspaper cartoons. You come knocking on the iridescent portal. The apostolic voice asks, “Who’s there?” If this should happen to you, the correct answer is “No one.” Then he will say, “Right answer! Enter into the joy of your Master!”

If Saint Peter were to ask you why you should be allowed into heaven, the proper answer is “I shouldn’t.” Not just because of your unworthiness (which is certainly true) but more importantly because “I”s and “you”s are not allowed in heaven. They must be left outside, like shoes left at the threshold of a mosque.

There are times on earth when we experience this selflessness. There are moments when the boundaries of the self blur and the soul dissolves. At those times we see that the Kingdom of God is not “up there” or “in the future.” We are in the midst of it here and now… when our eyes are open.

It is the unself that is saved. That which is not-you is what survives the dissolution of our mortal frames. Don’t worry; you won’t miss yourself. The self was never yours to begin with. It is just personal baggage that we have picked up along way to help navigate our earthly lives. You will be glad to set down both your body and your self at death.

Then who will we be, if we are not ourselves? We will be the image of God as we were originally created to be. We are mirrors held up to the Eternal One. When he looks at us standing at the gate, he sees the reflection of his Son. Then he will exclaim, “Welcome home, son!” When you hear those words, just say, “Thanks, Dad. It is good to be home.”

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