Heaven and hell are not places to which we go after we die, they are realities that we carry within us throughout our lives. Within each of us there is a certain amount of heaven and hell. Two people may stand next to each other in the Kingdom of God and one will be in heaven and the other will be in hell, but both will be together for eternity.
I do not believe that it serves anyone any good for Christians to sit around and wait for heaven, as if this life and this world were merely some bus station we are all in, waiting to board a vehicle that will take us to our final destination. I also do not believe that Christians can transform this world into heaven, but neither can it be transformed into hell. The earth, like each one of us, has a certain level of heaven and a certain level of hell — and that ratio is volatile and forever mutable. So no Christian attempts at social engineering by Liberal or Conservative or any other kind of Christian will make this world heaven.
I think the world reflects who we are. It is a corporate mirror of humanity. The more heaven we have in ourselves, the better the world is for us and others; the more hell we have in ourselves, the more hellish it is for us and others.
So our job as Christians is to not to go to heaven, or try to bring heaven, but to BE heaven. We are to figure out together what heaven is like and then we are to live that way here.
The best kept secret is this: YOUR ETERNAL LIFE HAS ALREADY BEGUN! Eternal life does not begin when we die; eternal life begins as soon as we begin. The second we are alive, we are born for eternal life.
How we live matters to that eternal life. Good works matter in this world! We are not saved by our works, but we work because we are saved. And if we are saved, then all the Bullshit, all the fear, all the worry, all the greed, all the resentments, all the anger, all the lust for power and wealth, all the self-centered, selfish anxiety and dread – ALL OF IT – can be stripped away like the dead skin shed by a snake.
God is love; therefore, the Kingdom of God is the Kingdom of Love. The amount of heaven inside each one of us directly corresponds to the amount of love inside each one of us. The more love we have, the more heaven within. The amount of hell is proportional to the amount of self-centered fear we carry around inside. The more self-centered fear we have, the more hell within. The more love we have, the more heaven we are; the more self-centered fear we have, the more hell we are.
Heaven and hell are not places where we will go; they are realities that we are. I think our time on this earth – certainly our time during Lent – is best served by taking an honest inventory of ourselves and seeing what we have more of, heaven or hell. Whatever the answer, we are then to make a decision to commit to one or the other. (Making a commitment to neither is making a commitment to hell.) The we are to find simple ways to be whatever it is to which we have made a commitment .
I expect that I will stand in the Kingdom of God next to a lot of people I do not at present like very much. It is only fair because they will have to stand next to me too. I expect that some of them, though standing next to me in God’s Kingdom, will be to a large degree in hell – because to those who hate, God’s love is hell. The good news is that they do not have to stay in that hell, and that hell that is within me can diminish over time.
But the really good news is that none of us have to wait until we are standing in God’s Kingdom to begin the process. We can begin reducing the hell within us now. We do this by increasing the love we have for others.
We are all deeply flawed human beings whom God loves anyway. Each of us are surrounded by deeply flawed human beings whom God loves anyway. Maybe if we can learn to accept their flaws, we can learn to love them too, and find ourselves being heaven on earth to someone who needs heaven here and now.
And if I am wrong, so what? What has it hurt any of us to be intentionally more loving toward others? Is being decent and kind and patient so repugnant that the only way we would ever consider doing any of those things is because we want to be rewarded for doing them?