In his book The Ragamuffin Gospel, Brennan Manning writes about a friend of his who said her greatest anxiety about going to Heaven was not being able to choose her tablemates at the heavenly banquet.

And then someone told me this joke a couple months ago, in which St. Peter was giving some new residents of Heaven a tour of their new home. He walked them down the streets of gold, showed them the various mansions, and let them see what was behind the doors. The group walked down a small hallway, past a closed door, and Peter shushed everybody — finger on his lips. “Now you have to be very quiet,” he said. Everybody wondered why. “Because behind that door…” Peter said, “that’s where the [Southern Baptists, Catholics, Apostolic Christians — you fill it in as you choose] live. They think they’re the only ones here.”

I laughed.

The humor has faded; the joke is not funny. It is sad and sick and twisted. Whether exclusive Christianity is common in one denomination or another is not the question. The question is: how often do thoughts of my exclusive acceptance in Heaven cross my mind, not necessarily excluding Christians of different denominations but individuals?

How do I love with the love of Christ, the love that says to the sinner, “Yes, you were a prostitute, a liar, a miserly tax collector, a shame-faced housewife. But go, and sin no more. You are a child of the King now — His child. I love you.” Under the blood of Christ, I have no room for haughtiness, looking down on the people I think are more annoying than me. I have nothing to boast about. I’m as sinful as the next guy. Do racism, anger, pride, little white lies displease the Lord any less than murder, crude sex, robbery?

In Heaven, my forgiven tablemates are overcomers. There is no heirarchy. God looks at my brother who, on earth, struggled with pornography and sees “clean.” God looks at me — my lips that used to drip with complaints, my body that used to be drenched in slothfulness, my mind, my eyes, my feet, my hands, my heart — and sees “clean.”

We sit together at the table (in Heaven… or is it right here, today?). And when my tablemate tells me he never had a church because he never stopped going to mosque after he started believing in Christ, I don’t want to have to doubt how that could be possible of a true Christian. I want to rejoice that I know such a man, an overcomer, covered in the blood of Christ just like me.

    • Luke
    • August 24th, 2006

    Thank you

    • rachel
    • September 3rd, 2006

    This is a challenge to me, especially when you bring it down to the practical level: _What if_ it comes down to me accepting this particular kind of believer or that kind? And how disgustingly arrogant of me to even think that I could choose with impunity whether to accept another believer or not. Jesus came to bring salvation, not judgment, he said.

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