Have you ever read a chapter or a few pages in a book and words leaped from the pages, answering questions yet simultaneously adding more questions, and loudly proclaiming: "This is what you need to hear" only to go back later and it seems so benign, leaving you to ponder why it was so earth shattering a few hours ago and not now? What changed?
That is what I felt today and not sure what or why. I was so excited reading this; it seemed to all of the sudden make sense. Later an email from a friend surprisingly echoed what I gleaned from this book.... yet looking at the pages read now makes no sense why it would be so exciting for me.
Still, I'd like to write out an excerpt from Philip Yancey's The Jesus I Never Knew. This is from page 113. I want to quote 2 pages but I guess that'd be a bit excessive. (buy the book!)
"In the Beatitudes, Jesus honored people who may not enjoy many privileges in this life. To the poor, the mourners, the meek, the hungry, the persecuted, the poor in heart, he offered assurance that their service would not go unrecognized. They would receive ample reward. "Indeed," wrote C.S.Lewis, "if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem tat Our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea."
"I know that among many Christians an emphasis on future rewards has fallen out of fashion. My former pastor Bill Leslie used to observe, "As churches grow wealthier and more successful, their preference in hymns changes from "This world is not my home, I'm just a passin' through' to "this is my father's world." In the United States, at least, Christians have grown so comfortable that we no longer identify with the humble conditions Jesus ddressed in the Beatitudes - which may explain why they sound do strange to our ears."
Mr. Yancey goes on to talk about the spiritual songs slaves sang in bondage. Because of the oppression, they were firmly grounded in the hope of the Eternal. Heaven was a reality, rewards there were what mattered.
C. S. Lewis wrote, "If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this."
I find myself so closely identifying with Mr. Yancey's words that we (I) have become so comfortable and complacent in my nice little slice of life where there is no "real" threat of persecution. I feel bad about things, I experience grief and disappointment, hurt and discouragement but it truly is because I don't stop and consider the eternal.
I have a friend who really does think at times of Heaven. She has said on her blog a few times and in conversations that she can't wait to hear God day "well done, good and faithful servant." At this stage in my life, I don't think He will say that to me. There's even a part of me thinking that only the elite Christians will hear those wonderful words.
Do you think about Heaven? Does the Beatitudes and Sermon on the Mount make much sense to you? Do you feel God will tell everyone "well done" or only a certain few?
I know; I have so many questions.