Chapter 17 “On earth as it is in heaven”
What Christians know, or are supposed to know, is that making exterior choices to benefit ourselves or to benefit society (which then often benefits ourselves) isn’t the same as having “a pure heart.” Most of us can stop ourselves from robbing banks or clubbing someone over the head. But in the daily struggle of life, the purity of heart that gives without judgment or loves without conditions is a steep climb.
St. Paul, for example, described himself as “the worst” of sinners, “a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man” (NIV 1 Tim. 1:13, 15). And many of us would probably add pride or arrogance to his list of faults! Only the Lord could see potential in such a personality profile. But Paul explains his successful discipleship by saying, “the grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly” (14).
And we need that abundance poured out on us as well. It is the Spirit of the Lord moving in our hearts that makes actual Christian charity possible. Thinking we can be unselfish and unconditionally kind out of our own strength of character and personality is a desire that’s bound to fail. We’re going to “fall short” in one fashion or another. And yet, when Peter asked Jesus how often we need to forgive others for their failings, the Lord answered, “until seventy times seven” (Matt. 18:22). It doesn’t really make sense, then, that God would ask that depth of forgiveness from us and then not offer it to us. Which takes me back to the topic that I mentioned in the first chapter.
Maybe it’s time to expand our view of what the next step in human experience looks like. Maybe it’s time to anticipate what lies ahead of us as a continuing opportunity. Paul writes, “If there’s a physical body, there’s also a spiritual body…The first human was from the earth made from dust; the second human is from heaven. The nature of the person made of dust is shared by people who are made of dust, and the nature of the heavenly person is shared by heavenly people. We will look like the heavenly person in the same way as we have looked like the person made from dust” (CEB 1 Cor. 15:44, 47-49).
And many near death experiencers, from all walks of life and religious beliefs, have found this to be true. These people find beauty and peace in an intermediate place that is filled with recognizable individuals. And after the experience, they return to this life with an overwhelming sense of God’s all encompassing love and forgiveness.