Given for the Saints at Medicalodge, Neosho, MO on January 6, 2008
"And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven" (I Cor. 15:49).
Here are a few thoughts about inclusion and reconciliation, which God showed me in a most unlikely feline way. We have two kitties, Baby and Taffy, which showed up in our lives in 1998 and 1999 respectively. Baby's mother was killed on the highway out front, leaving the little waif abandoned out by the mailbox, hoping for her mommy to come home. I was determined not to keep her, but of course, you know the end of that story. She quickly moved into my heart, rearranged the furniture, and settled in for the long haul.
A year later, when we were jogging near here, we heard a piteous cry from the ditch. We found a little bedraggled kitty with a bloody ear. We quickly drove her to the vet's office. I supposed she had been hit by a car, but as it turns out, it was only ear mites. Knowing we couldn't give her away until her ear healed, we fed and nurtured her. She too moved into my heart.
Over the years, several more cats came and died of this or that malady, a difficult experience for me to endure. Meanwhile, Baby and Taffy became seasoned travelers as we took them with us the 3 winters we spent in California.
My sister and her family were here for the Labor Day week end this year; Her husband and the girls were outside one sunny afternoon, when they spotted a little kitty. They couldn't catch her, but Lenny lured her with food into the "office" he made in the barn, which we now use for storage.
This little cat is black with muted brown and orange splashes on her coat, and a white spot on the end of both her nose and tail. It took Lenny two months to be able to hold her, an unusually long time for him. He has a special affinity with animals, so much so that I call him "St. Lenny of Neosho."
It took Frisky, his name for our newest kitty, longer than that to warm up to me, but finally, she did. When we took her to the vet to see if she had any of the dread feline diseases that two of our previous cats had died of, she got a clean bill of health, but when the weather turned very cold, it was difficult to heat the drafty office, where Frisky stayed. Because electric heaters raised our electric bill, Lenny said we need to bring her into the 5th wheel with us. I shuddered, because Baby and Taffy would really be in a hissing snit, and we're outnumbered, three to two. Additionally, I thought there was no "room in the inn" and/or no room on the bed for another cat, but I was wrong.
Lenny brought her in for an hour a couple of nights, to let her get used to the place. Finally, he decided the time had come to let her spend the night. He brought in her litter box and her food bowls, and put them where she could see them.
Baby and Taffy were on the bed napping. Frisky went into the bedroom (the part of the 5th wheel which juts out over the cab of the pickup which pulls it), and jumped up on the bed between them. They stared at each other. I went up there to see what was happening and then the fireworks began.
There was hissing and growling, with low, ominous rumblings coming from both cats. Frisky was unfazed, didn't get down, and in fact, when Baby came in to protest to Lenny, Frisky took her spot on a warm coverlet on the bed.
It went from that to worse. Frisky was curious about everything, poking her little nose into every nook and cranny she could find, and if she dared get too close to her sisters, she got hissing and growling back in her face. I told them this was NOT Christian behavior, but my lecture fell on deaf ears.
About midnight, we decided it was time to turn in. Taffy was on the bed growling, just in case Frisky got any ideas about coming up there, and Baby was in the little hall by the bathroom, hissing and growling toward the living room where Frisky was walking around. It's hard to get to sleep amidst three uptight, feuding kitties. I finally did fall asleep, and woke up sometime later with the following "movie" running through my mind, which I'd like to share with you now.
As a little background, most of you know that I have been writing about God's ultimate reconciliation of all people, for the entire time we've been on the Internet. Some of you have embraced this truth and some of you haven't. No matter, for now, just open your heart to the love of God for all men, put your religious ideas on hold, buckle your seat belt, and come along for the ride.
As the "fantasy" unfolded, I witnessed a "good Christian" showing up at the Pearly Gates and being ushered into heaven. This Saint was a person who during his life, really did obey all the visible rules, went to church every time the doors were opened, gave of his means to the poor and the church, read his Bible daily, prayed, and tried to live a righteous life because he truly loved the Lord.
His joy at finally making it to heaven was short lived, however, because his welcoming party included Adolph Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Benito Mussolini (Italian Dictator during W.W.II), Idi Amin (Ugandan dictator, known as "Butcher of Africa"), "Papa Doc" Duvalier (notorious ruler of Haiti during the 60s), and Pol Pot (Cambodian Communist leader of the Khmer Rouge, who killed millions during his reign of terror). There they were, big as life and happy as you please, coming forward to welcome our Saint to glory. They invited him to stroll down the streets of gold to a welcome reception being thrown in his honor.
When they arrived, he saw Jeffrey Dahmer, Ted Bundy, Richard Ramirez (the Night Stalker), Charlie Manson, and Timothy McVey (mass murderers, all). "What in the world is going on?" he wonders?
Our Saint remembers this verse, "He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world" (I John 2:2). "But surely that doesn't include mass murderers and serial killers," he thinks. The horrible thought came to him that perhaps he made a wrong turn somewhere and ended up in the "other place," because how could this be heaven with all those bad people there? As he's pondering this conundrum, a bearded man in a long robe steps up to the mike and calls the celebration to order. It is none other than Judas Iscariot.
Totally freaked out now, the newest Saint to come through Heaven's Portals, turns around and runs outside. He runs smack into Jesus, falls on his face before him, and lies there on the ground, trembling. The Lord extends his hand and helps the poor confused soul to his feet, clasps him to his bosom and says, "Welcome son. I've been waiting for you."
The confused Saint stammers, "But Lord, what are all these bad people doing here? How could it be?"
Jesus smiles at him and answers kindly, "You're here because of me and so are they. What is that to you? Was my blood limited to just a few?"
This, of course, reminded me of the parable of the vineyard owner who paid the workers he hired at the eleventh hour the same wage that he paid those who had worked all day. Those who had worked all day grumbled because they didn't get more money than the ones who signed on at the eleventh hour.
To them, the landowner replied, "'Friend, I am not being unfair to you. Didn't you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give the man who was hired last the same as I gave you. Don't I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?' "So the last will be first, and the first will be last" (Matt. 20:13-16).
If this whole "fantasy" of mine gives you pause, or causes you to want to run screaming into the night, tearing out your hair along the way, you might ask the Holy Spirit to help you figure out why. Here's a clue from an elderly friend of mine who said about a Neosho man convicted of murder, "I suppose you think he'll be in heaven as well." When I answered that I certainly did think so, she retorted hotly, "Well, I don't want to live next door to a murderer."
My attempts to show her that when the killer sees Christ as He is, he shall be like Him, and if the killer is like Christ, there's no problem with him anymore (I John 3:2), didn't register with her. She knew what she knew and that was the end of it. Heaven is another word for "spirit," and it does not include the evils of the flesh, murder, rape, adultery, thievery, lying, and just plain orneriness. These will be burned off by the glory of God, symbolized by the Lake of Fire: "But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars, their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death" (Rev. 21:8). The Lake of Fire is God's VERY efficient way to burn off the dross.
John had a lot to say about the spirit realm, and since we've been discussing the "scum bags" of the universe, consider this verse: "Then I heard EVERY CREATURE in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing: "To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!" (Rev. 5:13). That sounds VERY inclusive to me, meaning EVERYone, good, bad, and awful will be singing praises to God and Christ. If anyone were to end up on the spits of hell, they would hardly be singing praises, do you think?
Dante's Inferno had a sign over it which read "ABANDON HOPE, ALL YE WHO ENTER HERE." Heaven's gate may have one that reads, "Your carnal nature and other baggage of the flesh will be incinerated and the ashes will remain outside."
If you have recovered your composure after pondering this shocking imaginary scene, let's dial it back a bit. What if, instead of this "Who's who of bad boys" you encounter people in heaven you knew in life who were snobs, gossips, selfish pukes, judgmental old things, stingy, greedy folks, uncaring and unfeeling about the woes of others? Do you think they would get to glory?
Dial it back even further and consider a good person who goes to a different church than you do. Will he be there? Suppose they baptize by sprinkling rather than immersion, or they don't take communion every week, or maybe they even think the Pope is the head of the church. What then? Do they qualify to get through the gate, or are they lost eternally?
Just who does get into heaven? In my youth, I loved the chorus, "When we all get to heaven, what a day of rejoicing that will be. When we all see Jesus, we'll sing and shout the victory." But how much shouting and singing will there be if people you found objectionable in this life get there right along with you?
I submit to you that to some people, that would be almost as grim as ending up in the devil's domain. Why would that be, do you suppose?
To find the answer, let's go back to our kitties. In spite of my regular admonitions to them to repent of their hateful behavior toward each other, and to act like "good Christian" cats should, they continue to be jealous and territorial. They hiss and growl whenever they feel offended, and occasionally slap each other silly. They sort of remind me of political candidates going after each other before an election. "Aren't you ashamed of yourselves" I sometimes ask Baby and Taffy, but they only look away and answer not a word.
What's the difference between us and cats, other than a tail and four legs? Simply put, THEY DO NOT LIVE UNDER LAW! They have no shame and no guilt. Human beings who have lived under law, have both shame and guilt in good measure. The more legalistic the person is, the more he or she has trouble being around people who don't abide by the rules. Such a person would spit up a camel at the idea that a rotten sinner such as the ones I mentioned would get into heaven and live in a mansion next to his. After all our Saint did for God and abstained from doing, he could not stand it that a reprobate got the same reward as he.
Such a person has not confronted his own carnal nature. Religion has deceived him into thinking that he's done all that's necessary to please God and that he EARNED His rewards. Job had a similar problem, and he didn't get it until God put him through what I like to call "the divine combine." Only after Job had encountered the living God could he say, "My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes" (Job. 42:5-6). Of what did he repent since God had said of him that he was perfect? Perhaps it was listening to men rather than to God, or maybe it was simply that He saw himself in comparison with God and knew how futile his actions and good works really were. Whatever it was, we all have to make that journey into self, either now in this life, or when we cross Jordan.
Reconciliation of all is not for the faint hearted because people are a lot like cats in their basic dislike for anyone different, which is why in some circles, my "movie" would cause a whole lot of hissing, growling, clawing and biting. Not to worry, God has His ways to change the blackest heart. Isaiah quoted the Lord as saying, "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool" (Is. 1:18). God even controls cats, and, I'm happy to report that peace now reigns among our three cats, who are sleeping quietly, like the furry little angels they are.
Father, we thank you for object lessons in every day life which help us to understand Your plan for our lives. By Your grace, we abandon our self efforts and surrender to Your absolute control and authority. We admit there is VERY little real difference between saint and sinner, the religious man and the heathen. All we have is what we have received from You, which is enough. Hallelujah and Amen. Jan Antonsson
Jan and Lenny Antonsson
17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850 (Snail Mail)
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This writing was uploaded to the web 12/25/07,
by Jan Antonsson, webmeister,
and last updated 11/18/08.