I’ve had this thought for some time now about the after-life. About human nature, about the combination of the two, and how it relates to the stories we have told and continue to tell subsequent generations. The creation of legacy and the idea that we want messages to feel true, both with a lower case and capital “T”.
I have this sneaking suspicion that, as humans, we have a tendency to want to control whatever it is we come into contact with. This is played out in every facet of human life. We have gone to incredible lengths to control nature, food, science, our pets, and even, though not limited to the darkest parts of our American history, control of other humans.
Control is why we fight wars. It is why we work and why we compete. It is even why we love. I want someone to control my heart. Without control I suppose we would spiral? To not put too fine a point on it.
So what, then, does it look like to have control in a Christian setting? It has always sounded to me like control was the first thing one must learn to give up to be part of what God has planned. That has always made enough sense (while also making less and less sense as time passes). In order to gain life, we must give it up to Him. I can live with that.
I think of Rob Bell’s book when I reach this point. Bringing Heaven to Earth. How are we to know who gets in and who is forced to stay out? Is God so cut and dry that He needs us to say an incredibly simplistic phrase, mapped out for us by preachers, parents, and general passers-by on Facebook? Or is He that much greater than we’ve ever been able to understand, that His ways trump whatever box we think is most convenient to place Him in to serve our purposes?
Without digressing, I will get to my point. I bring up Rob Bell because I tend to agree that the children who practice peace on the other side of the world, will not miss out on God’s end-of-time plans. I think I believe in a God that loves what has come to be created and wants badly to be with us where we are, wherever we are.
Good deeds will not get us to Heaven is a popular phrase people like to throw out when something like this is said. You can’t get to Heaven through anything you can do here. It is pretty incredible that out of the entire human experience, the most important part of it, the end, boils down to how well you give up control in this one, minute area. A conversation that literally takes five seconds.
There is an interesting twist that I have found goes unnoticed about this giving up of control. Actual giving up of control, to me, looks like this. You go through life giving up control of your wealth, your comfort, and even your health, that someone might feel grace.
What it does not look like is accumulation, selfishness, and a general disdain for anyone who is not you.
And even this faux “giving up of control” actually gets tainted by human nature. To give up control is to let God decide what he will do in the end. Live your life and if it is sufficient, then it is. But we, as humans have injected control into the most important act of “giving up control!”
In order that we might have eternal life, we must “accept” Jesus into our hearts. If we do not, we are not part of the chosen. Wait… I thought we were supposed to lose life to gain it. When put this way, it is not Jesus that saves. It is our own choice that saves. Because, if I were to not consciously choose, then I’m on the outside looking in. Or so I’m told.
Salvation is no longer in Jesus in that context. What he did on the cross is not important if we are to believe what we’ve been told, that “choosing” salvation is the key. Jesus could have been eating a hot dog at a picnic table for all anyone cares, if it all boils down to US and OUR control over OUR salvation. What makes more sense, is that what Jesus actually did, covers US ALL, no matter who we are. That is real salvation. That is humankind actually giving up control that we succumb, in the end, to what God decides, not what we decide gets us in.
I say this more or less as a hopeful word. I believe in a God that is all-powerful and able to read between our lines. What I have a harder time believing is the many that you and I know who inject control in a more subtle way than they even realize they are.
This story has been passed down thousands of years and has gone through parts of history that used this book to control the thoughts and actions (as well as the money) of its followers. To be so naive that there is some infallible nature within a physical book is giving up on the abilities to critically process and imagine God as He intended us to! What is this mind for if not to try and imagine what this world could be like if we each tried to bring peace and harmony to each of our parts of it?