My favorite "pearly gate" joke:
St. Peter: "Name?"
Man 1: "Earl"
St. Peter: "Why are you here today? looks like you're a little ahead of schedule Earl!"
Man 1: "Well, Mr. Peter, I had stopped home for lunch to show my wife my new company car. I was just leaving when a refrigerator fell through my car and killed me."
St. Peter: "Unfortunate but understandable. Welcome in."
St. Peter: "Next! Name?"
Man 2: "Tom. I really hate to admit this St. Peter, but I am insanely jealous of my wife and always suspected she was cheating on me. So when I heard a car start up in the driveway down below our apartment I took the first thing handy, our fridge, and threw it out the window to stop the cheater! Blew out my heart though..."
St. Peter: "We'll have to work on that temper, Tom. But welcome in."
St. Peter: "Name?"
Man 3: "Brad. Uh, I was in the refrigerator..."
St. Peter: "Really?!? Ohhhh..."
Having officiated a few funerals in my time I'm pretty sure most people don't give a lot of thought to "entering the kingdom of heaven" until confronted with the painful reality of leaving the kingdoms of this world. I sat with a lady who, having made the difficult decision to stop dialysis, was slipping away. It struck me how after making peace with leaving family and friends there was still the little things that fill the world--habits, pleasures, comforts--like asking for a drink of soda, from around which one must unwrap one's hands.However, the "kingdom of heaven" is a party not just anyone can crash, in fact, some will be excluded. But who and why? The One expert on the subject, the Man who claimed to come from heaven, who before his accusers and executioners proclaimed His Divine Kingship, spelled it out, "those who think they will be first: the self-righteous and sanctimonious." Looking those words up in a dictionary probably won't get you much closer to understanding what He meant. But understanding what Jesus meant, about anything, is the business of life...and has afterlife implications.
Jesus showed tender mercy to those who struggled with the difficulties of life. He showed indignation to those who piled on those difficulties!
In every culture throughout history the "kingdoms of this world" entice men with the allure of wealth and power. The closer they get to the top of the mountain of fame and fortune the more "entitled" they believe they have become. Is it any wonder that they believe others feel the same; are motivated to receive "entitlements" from their "generosity"? Is it any wonder that in the exchange between the ruling class and the ruled every "free" morsel of redistributed charity eagerly received as a "right" is an affirmation of that faith? Is it any wonder that people become more dependent on those who perpetuate the belief that a few are smarter, stronger, better in every way and are "entitled" to pile on difficulties through regulation, rules, intimidation and falsehood? Faith in this system is a powerful thing...
Faith in Jesus and obedience to His words is a difficult thing.
- To be great in his kingdom one must serve.
- To be alive in his kingdom one must die to oneself.
- To hold the treasures of His kingdom, one must let go of the treasures of this one.
- To be loved in His Kingdom, one must love--like Him--in this!
There is only one kind of righteousness that will gain entrance into his kingdom, the righteousness that comes by obedient faith to Him! Only those kind will populate His paradise!