It's a sobering thought. Sooner or later, we'll all depart this life. If we don't believe in an afterlife, it's just depressing. The clock is ticking and we are all running out of time. However, if we believe that there is something after this life, it gets more complicated. We have to figure out what "afterlife" means- is there a heaven? If so, what, if anything, do we have to do to get there? And finally, if there is a heaven, is there also hell?
In my book, "The Reasonable Person- Due Process of Law, Logic, and Faith," I discuss the reasoning process I went through to decide that heaven and hell are real. I also discuss the impossibility of earning one's way into heaven.
I'll go out on a limb here, but logic aside, I think that most people believe the same thing. This belief is the basis for most of the world's religions. It just feels right. If humankind did not believe in an afterlife, then it would quickly devolve into a dog-eat-dog mentality- each of us taking for ourselves without considering others. Our history has certainly had plenty of examples of this; however, these people are sociopathic anomalies and not the norm.
But that's not the purpose of this blog post.
Instead, I would like to speak to Christians about eternal judgment.
It's not something most of us think about. After all, we are forgiven, thanks to Jesus. We've received a free one-way ticket to heaven. However, "forgiven" is not the same thing as "exempt from prosecution." The bible tells us repeatedly that there everyone will be judged. In 2 Corinthians 5, Paul explains it eloquently- Christians do what we do because one day, we will all be judged by Christ for our actions.
He's not going to send us to hell. But if we've acted badly during our earthly lives, I would imagine He will not be too happy about it. This is why, even though we are heaven-bound, we continue to fight the good fight, just as Paul did.
When I look at eternity and compare it to the few years I have left on this earth, the decision should be easy. I should decide to act the way that Jesus taught me to act. But I don't.
It's sort of like dealing with a small child's fears. You can explain that her fears our groundless. Unless she makes a decision to overcome the fear, she will remain controlled by it. Eventually, over time, she will come to realize that you were right.
In the grand scheme of eternity, anything that can happen to you on earth during this life, is completely unimportant. At the same time, the decisions you make- how you act; how you treat others, are all "evidence" in terms of your eternal judgment.
When you face your Maker in heavenly court, what do you want the evidence to show? That you acted selfishly, fearfully, greedily, dishonestly . . . evilly? Or, do you want the evidence to show that you acted as He would have had you act? Certainly, for many of us, like me, the evidence has substantially accumulated. This could either discourage you or inspire you.
I'm going to choose to let it inspire me. For whatever remaining years, or minutes, I have left, I'm going to live as best as I can, in the way that He intended for me to live. When He evaluates my record, He will see plenty of mistakes. But I'm sure He will also consider the extenuating circumstances- I simply didn't always know what I was doing.
But today, going forward, I do. And I want Him to look at this portion of the record and say, "Well done."