It is a provocative question. “Am I going to Heaven?” It scares us, annoys us, angers us, or sends us away trembling with fright. However there are some of us who believe we are good people so of course we’re going.
What does it mean to “go to Heaven”? Is it earned? Are we invited? Can we crash it? Might we just sneak in unnoticed?
The Prodigal Son Parable
One of my favorite and most theologically sound parables that Jesus gave to us is the prodigal son. In this simple parable is the story of a father and his two sons. It captures much of who God is and how He nurtures relationships. In the story is captured two different personality types. Some of us relate to the younger son, who asks the father for his share of the estate. He then takes off to live his life to the fullest – selfishly. Others relate to the elder son, who stays with his father. He works his fingers to the bone out of obligation and righteousness. Yet, neither of these two sons really love or know their father.
When the younger son loses everything he comes back to the father. However, it is more or less out of sheer need. He does seem to have a contrite heart and makes amends with his father. The father, who by the way, receives him with open arms, doesn’t even let him finish confessing his wrongdoing. The elder son, who is jealous and resentful at the behavior of the father towards the younger son, feels cheated. His younger brother might horn in again on his inheritance after he worked and slaved for the father. Again, this elder son is not thinking of the father only his own selfish needs. Yet, the father again comes out to invite his elder son into the house. He wishes that he share in everything that the father has including his happiness and joy.
So, what is the father asking of his children? It really isn’t so much about the work on the farm. However, it is everything to do with the relationship that each of these children could have with their father. So, to answer the first question: no, we cannot earn our way into Heaven. We can go to Church every day, spend thousands of hours in prayer, and give countless of dollars in charity. However it will all be for naught if we do not know and love our Father.
We cannot crash the Heavenly wedding feast because well it’s God’s house. He’s not about to let in the riff-raff who do not have contrite hearts and seek only to better themselves. Nor can we sneak in unnoticed, climbing through some back window. Our Father has counted every hair on our heads and knows each of us intimately. Do you think you can go unnoticed? There are placards at every seat at His table.
Our Father does invite us to have a relationship with Him. He loves each of us and wishes that we love Him as well. This is really what it is all about. The question is really a trick question. Heaven is not the goal. Heaven is just the place where our Father lives. The real question is do we know our Father well enough and do we love our Father deeply enough that we want to be with Him wherever that may be.
If you can sincerely answer “yes” to this question, then you are already in Heaven, so do not worry; be at peace.
If you cannot sincerely answer “yes” to that question, then maybe it’s time you get to know our Father. After all, your seat at the table is waiting for you to accept it.
The Adventure awaits you…