gloveless faith: only bad people go to heaven

today was a day when i had to to have one of those conversations. the kind of conversations you’re not looking forward to–the kind that no one looks forward to–but that needs to happen so that healing can take place.

i’m the kind of person who runs full speed away from these types of conversations. looking frantically for a rug to sweep everything under. or some sand to stick my head in. if i were an animal, i ‘d be an ostrich.

that’s one area where my wife and i differ. she loves tackling things head on. if there’s a problem, she’s going to deal with it. and i’ll be in the background, with my head in the sand.

i joke, but today was one of the most difficult conversations i’ve had in a very long time. it was the result of what has been a tough, tough road for us. talking with family about a pretty difficult situation. a situation that has rippled through all of our lives, like a stone tossed haphazardly into still waters.

only bad people go to heaven

i was listening to a podcast the other day by  a pastor by the name of alistair begg; one of my favorite teachers to listen to. he’s originally from scotland (thus the name) and he has an incredible voice, which means he can talk about pretty much anything and you’d want to listen. but he really is an incredible teacher, and i regularly get much from listening to him.

i can’t remember now the context of this particular message, but he recently said something that has stayed with me throughout my week. he had this to say…

when are we going to get it that it’s only bad people who get to go to heaven?

and it stuck with me because it is so antithetical to how we think, isn’t it?

and i bring this up because all too often i think we try to draw lines between the “bad” people and the “good” people. between those who go to church and those who don’t. between those who read their Bibles and those who don’t. and i think it’s when we do this that we lose sight of the fact that we’re all bad people.

my latex gloves

this conversation, the one i wasn’t looking forward to, was with my mother. she was telling me how my sister hadn’t wanted to talk to me about some stuff because she thought i would look down on her. that i would judge her. that i would be ashamed.

and i can’t tell you how bad that hurt.

i want to be there for her, always. so bad. she has no idea. and what hurts me more than not being there for her is that she feels this way. that somehow my lifestyle prevents me from understanding where she’s coming from. oh how i wish she could see the condition of my heart! oh how i wish i could show her how similar we are!

it disgusted me, that she would somehow think i have elevated myself to a position from which i would look down on her. i could not. not ever. and i hate it that this might have something to do with my faith. i hate that most. for that is the absolute antithesis of what the Christian faith should look like.

reaching the hurting

He picked me up, out of the muck and mire, and He has given me the freedom and the life to help Him reach others, and to do the same for them. He does miracles. every single day. He is in the business of redeeming souls. of redeeming lives. and He does so, everyday. but the thing is, He uses us. He uses His followers to reach others. through our hands and through our feet. He desires to touch others with hands of love and compassion. with hands that tell others,

it’s okay. you are loved. I love you. I don’t judge you. you are free. I have paid your price. and I will never let you go.

that’s what He’s about. that’s what He wants to do. with your hands. and with mine. and He will. pray for it. seek Him. ask Him to reach those you love. those who are hurting. and He will use your hands, your ears, your mouth, your feet in a way that you never thought possible. He’ll use them to reach hearts. to redeem them to Himself.

but we must first take off the latex gloves. we must first remove the barrier that separates us from them. if we are ever to be successful in reaching others to show them Him and His love, we must not ever elevate ourselves from them. we must show them how much we are alike. we must show them that we too have messed up. we must show them that our lives would be a complete mess had He not have gotten involved. we must show them that we too deserve punishment for what we have done, but that punishing ourselves will never pay the price for what we have done. nor need it. for that price has already been paid. by Him. and His desire is that we would come to Him asking for His forgiveness. that we would come to Him with burdened hearts so that He can remove the burden, and allow us to enjoy lives of freedom in His presence.

but we must never let anyone believe for one second that they cannot approach us with their hurt or their pain out of fear of judgment. that is a lie of the worst sort. it is a lie that threatens one’s very soul to eternal torment. for, if others cannot even have a conversation with us for fear of being looked down upon, how can we ever reach out in love? we must smash that belief to pieces if Christianity is ever to overcome the sin in our hearts and the hurt in this world.

depravity of the soul

i was watching the news before work the other day, and shots from a court case were being shown. the case involved a college grad student who was being accused of murdering another student.

it was a horrible ordeal. painful to watch. but it was interesting what the judge had to say in the hearing (excuse my paraphrased version):

what we are dealing with today is not a domestic violence case, nor is it a case of workplace violence. what we are dealing with is the dark side of the human soul.

it was an incredible statement to play on the morning news. particularly juxtaposed against all the things everyone who knew this accused student were saying. how nice he was. how he could never do such a thing. friends from his childhood. friends who knew him their whole lives.

and he looked bewildered as he stood there in court. like a scared little child. i watched as photographers took his photo as he sat in a car waiting to be lead into court. and i watched as the news showed police offers lead him into court for his hearing. and to each face, to the police officers, to the photographers, to the lawyers, to each of them i thought, “it could’ve been you. you could’ve been the one standing there, handcuffed in the middle of a courtroom for the murder of someone else. you are no better. i am no better. that could be me.”

the judge was right. this was a case of the depravity of the human soul. but it wasn’t just his soul. it is ours. all of ours. we all are dealing with the darkness of our souls. we are all capable of murder.

and it is at the point where, if we begin thinking more highly of ourselves, or looking down at this man because we are not standing in a courtroom on trial for murder, that’s the moment when we put the latex gloves on. that’s the moment we run the risk of drawing a line that separates “us” from “them.” and that simply cannot happen. not if we are to be effective with our faith. not if we want to be used by Him to touch the lives of others. we must remove the gloves.

the end of the story: He wins

it was during this conversation with my mom that i took a walk, leaving her and my wife to chat. a walk to get a drink of water. to catch my breath. and to take a moment just to think.

we were at a park by the water for this conversation. one of my favorite parks. it’s off the beaten trail just far enough that not everyone goes there, which made it perfect for a day like today. and i was chewing on our conversation as i walked. wondering what God thought of all this. what He wanted me to think. what He wanted me to take away from all this. what He wanted me to do.

it was during my walk back to the park bench that He spoke into my heart, as He tends to do at those moments when it’s needed most. and as the sun of the late afternoon day shone over the bay, through the trees, i heard these words,

you know the end of the story. you know that I win. even when everything seems to say otherwise, you know the end of the story.

and that thought brought light to my heart and joy to my face. for, even when all else seems to suggest that things are out of His control, it is encouraging to know the end of the story. it is encouraging to know that He will work in a way that redeems the horrible situation we’re going through. right now, even though it seems like a nightmare, to know that the day will one day dawn. to know that, even now, the darkness is cowering in anticipation of that day. to know that He wants to use your hands and your feet to pull open the shades and let His light shine forth into the hearts of those who are trapped in the nightmare of their own sin.

as He told me this afternoon, so i tell you in hopes of bringing you encouragement,

hey bud, lift up your chin, for you know the end of the story. and I have every intention of using you to bring about my happy ending.

and it was with great joy and encouragement that i took my seat beside my mom. knowing that all would be okay. knowing that He was using this situation, what seemed like the darkest of hours, for His glory.

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