I have just walked through the Pearly Gates. “I’ve made it!” By God’s grace, of course.
I start to wander around. Lo and behold, the first person I bump into is a monster. It’s Ivan Milat, the “backpacker murderer”, or Pol Pot of “the killing fields”, or “Jihadi John”, the ISIS executioner, or Stalin or Hitler. It doesn’t matter which individual. It’s someone whom we all presume could not be here, but would rightly be spending eternity in agony.
Or it might be the person who has brought unbearable suffering and destruction into my life. Perhaps that person who fleeced me of my life’s savings, or who drove a loved one to suicide, or who betrayed me or deserted me? Or maybe one who should have protected and nurtured me, but instead abused me and set my life on a course of self-loathing and self-destruction?
It matters not who. It’s one who should not, by any earthly standard, be here.
What do I do? How do I respond?
Firstly, though, how did he get here?
It hits me straight away. (Up here things do hit you straight away. Such clarity.)
He got here the same way I did – by God’s mercy and grace!
If I claimed that I redeemed myself from doing evil and earned my bliss, I could not be here. My pride would exclude me. I was saved by God. He, too, was saved by God.
God brought me to a state of repentance and openness to saving love at my last moment of rational decisionmaking. By God’s grace, I chose love and salvation. God must have done the same for the monster.
In Jesus, God did just that for Adam and his children. Supreme wisdom and power and love out-manoeuvred, out-wrestled and out-loved fallen humanity.
Adam’s sin was the most monstrous of all. It was the sin that led to all consequent sins – to all murder and genocide, to all abuse and life-long suffering, to every conceivable act of hatred. In Christ, God saved Adam, the daddy of all monsters, and his descendants.
Here in the Father’s house the one-time monster is home. Self-love had wanted the father “dead” to allow for self-indulgence. But the father’s love triumphed over monstrous intent and the foulest behaviours. God’s wisdom and power and love cannot be defeated by Adam – or by any lesser monster.
So what do I do? How do I respond to meeting this monster in heaven?
I embrace. I say, “Praise and thanks to God who can and does save even the worst of sinners.” How could I ever have thought God was incapable? How could I have doubted God’s ability to achieve his purpose when he created us to share his life of love for all eternity, when he sent his Son to save us? We fail constantly. God never does. Especially in his grandest and dearest creative enterprise – us! So I embrace the onetime monster. I rejoice that God’s mercy and grace has worked a stupendous miracle to convert, transform and save the monster.
Suddenly! Another blinding realisation! Praise be to God for what hits me now as an even more incredible miracle! I, unbelievably, have forgiven one whom I had thought was unforgivable! I’m actually rejoicing in the monster’s salvation and eternal joy! I’m not wanting his eternal banishment and suffering! Me, loving the unlovable – just like God! Surely the greatest miracle of all.
Graciously, I, the “elder son” – the prodigal’s brother – have accepted whole-heartedly our father’s invitation to be with my brother in the house of music and dancing and feasting. By grace, my heart has understood his words: “It is only right that we should celebrate and rejoice. Your brother was dead and has come to life.” So was I! So have I! Completely!
Amazing grace that saved a wretch (just) like me.