Yesterday a Christian friend was talking about forgiveness and today a non-religious friend asked me whether I thought a particular public figure would go to heaven or hell and it made me think…
If I were in charge of the Last Judgement and had to sort through everyone justly, I’d probably take one look at the enormous crowd of people and then start processing them like the squirrels in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory process nuts -hastily approving or condemning people without actually being just.
But every day I pray ‘forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us’ -and so I would not choose ever to sit in mortal judgement, because if I condemned anyone, I would be condemning myself.
I think when we imagine Final Judgement, we can often only imagine a situation like a high court judge -trying to follow the letter of the law and decide punishment. And certainly we cannot imagine God being ‘just’ as the Bible describes him, without thinking quite reasonably, that those who have suffered on earth should have the balance redressed in heaven: whilst those who have mistreated others shamelessly, somehow get their just desserts.
But life is not black and white, and rather than imagine a great dividing-up into two piles, a sorting into naughty and nice, and bus-rides in opposite directions -what about a great coming-together… Certainly that image fits with Scripture.
I would not choose to send anyone away from the presence of God, no matter how badly they had behaved on earth… Think of someone you believe to be thoroughly bad… might it not serve them right emotionally to actually be taken into God’s presence and then get a real, true, stone-cold-sober sense of what they had done, to other people, to God, to themselves…Think of someone thoroughly good and humble, or someone sweet and lovable -might not the selfsame thing also be fair and just for them..
Perhaps that is what judgement is, having all things ‘brought to light’ nothing hidden, absolute reality and true knowledge. Knowing how much God loves you and the rest of humanity and then getting a true sense of perspective -if you see Christians crying in church ever, sometimes that is what they’re thinking about… Believe me, I know.
Perhaps living life on earth as a Christian just gradually prepares us for the same experience that everyone on earth will ultimately face -and the only difference is that it won’t hurt as much for people who have gradually changed as they’ve got to know God in life, as it will for people who haven’t. It certainly wouldn’t hurt anyone who had lived a truly loving life without knowing about Jesus, as much as it would hurt a Christian who had never stopped mistreating people.
Blessed are the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, the merciful… (Matthew 5) they will be faced with God’s love and totally consoled, joyful, exalted and accepted.
But maybe for others, being faced at last with that incredible love will utterly unmake them…?