Saturday, October 04, 2014

Fairness, Forgiveness...and Pineapples

Sisters...being sisters.
If we forgive a terrible wrong done to us, does that mean we have to like that person and continue our relationship as if nothing ever happened? Is it fair that they receive the benefits of eternity in heaven, if they've been downright nasty most of their life and then late in life accept a Savior who's willing to forgive them and give them eternal life? You mean they'll actually get a mansion - or a room - or whatever it might be - that's just as good as Billy Graham's or Jim Elliot's?

Those are just a sampling of various questions I've heard over the past month, and it's made me ponder. I've come away from it even more convinced in a truth I've held to for a long time now... 

I FIRMLY believe that how we live each and every day is being rewarded NOW. Sure - I get to go to heaven someday, all because of Jesus dying for our sins. None of us are good enough. Perhaps some people will end up getting a mansion and others an eco-friendly tiny house - or, perhaps we'll all get the exact same kind of apartment - it really doesn't matter that much. It shouldn't bother me that a former Gestapo gas chamber guard turned Christian ends up getting the rewards of heaven just like I will.

The rewards of living a faithful, Christian life - including forgiving those who've wronged us - come back to bless us right here and right now. Those people you know - who claim to be Christian but hypocritically treat others badly; lying and slandering and doing things we don't think Christians should do - THEY are the ones missing out. They are missing the blessing of having great relationships with others, because of the way they mistreat people. They are missing the blessing of the joy that's found in doing the best they can - a clear conscience that comes from knowing they've been truthful and treated others with respect. 

I really, really feel like God blesses us with an inner joy, peace and happiness right here and now that can truly and only be found when we're doing the best we can at living the way He wants us to live. Those "Christians" (and only God knows if they truly are Christians) who don't - I'm 99% sure they are not filled with joy, contentment and peace; and deep down they aren't very happy.

I may never be rich with money or possessions - I may not get a gold mansion in heaven - but I am extremely blessed and "rich" right now, knowing that God's ways are always best; knowing that there are blessings each and every day waiting for me if I choose to live in a way that pleases Him. For the most part, those blessings involve relationships with people. They are the "treasures in heaven" (Matt. 6:19-21) that I'm laying up. I can't take a nice car with me - I can't take my big house with me - but I can take people with me. They are ALWAYS worth investing in.

My daughter shared with me an awesome story about a missionary who was continually wronged by the people he was trying to minister to, and how he eventually came to genuinely love and forgive them anyway. It's called "The Pineapple Story":
It's almost an hour long - but sooo worth the time it takes. It's full of truth...the basic truth that people are more important than things... yet it's also very honest and funny. ("I could be a real good missionary if it weren't for you people!!!" :-)

If you've watched "The God's Not Dead" movie, you might have looked at that atheist professor who is so mean and hateful towards God and towards Christians - watched him come to know Jesus right before he dies and thought, "That's not fair - he gets to go to heaven even though he lived so wrongly!"  

But who really got cheated there?  He did. 

He got cheated out of peace; out of wonderful, trusting and loving relationships; out of true happiness; out of so many blessings that result from living life here and now in a way that pleases God. Yup - he'll go to heaven just like you or I will; after all, it's only because of Jesus' sacrifice that ANY of us get to go. But will he have the joy of hearing God say, "Well done, my good and faithful servant" ? (Matt. 25:21)  Did he ever experience true joy and peace while on this earth?  That is worth SO very much - and it's something that most people don't experience unless they're sold out to God - like the young college guy in the movie. Yes - he suffered ridicule and lost his girlfriend because he did what he thought God wanted him to...but he also enjoyed the satisfaction of seeing a classmate turn his life over to Christ, made a new friend; and probably saved himself a lifetime of being married to a self-centered woman that wasn't very good for him anyway. We get so many blessings like that when we make the effort to live the way God wants us to - blessings that can't be measured in values of a gold house; but blessings just the same.

AND...we really and truly don't know what heaven will be like...the Bible doesn't tell us a lot. I've heard people say that God purposely didn't give us many details about heaven, because it's so incredible that if we knew more about it, we'd probably all be committing suicide so we could get there sooner! 

Who knows what God might have planned for us? The end of that Matthew 25:21 verse says, "You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!'"   Who knows what God might entrust us with in heaven, because we've chosen to be faithful to Him in big and little things while we were here on earth???!  I'm pretty sure it's going to be awesome, and full of joy - and we won't even notice if forgiven sinners who lived terribly most of their lives share it alongside us. 

Regardless - I know I've got a "rich" life right here and now, by following God's ways. Does it suck that someone who's treated me terribly seems to get by with it and suffer no visible consequences? Sure...but it's their loss, not mine.