Do you know what heaven is going to look like? For most of us, we have images of gold paved streets; we may see angels flying, and a bunch of light. We likely are also looking forward to seeing our family members and friends who have gone before us. The reality, is, however I think our view of heaven is too small. We are not thinking big enough.
Heaven is going to be a place where God is glorified….all the time. Heaven is going to be a place where there is no more pain, a place where there is no more suffering, and there is no more sin.
I’d like to share with you a picture of heaven. Revelation 7:9-12 says, “9 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” 11 And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”
This is a beautiful picture and a reality which come closer by the day. Yet, when we look at this picture, it should also convict us. As Christians, we are called to establish the kingdom of heaven here on earth and as we look at our church services on Sunday morning, is this what they look like?
The short answer is no. Not even a bit. Why is this, because we are still experiencing sin in this life. The sin which we must address, is racism and prejudice. Yet, it goes deeper than racism because the church should be on the forefront of making sure everyone has the opportunity to meet the savior. Christ welcomed in the poor, the downcast, the sinners. He met with the people no one else wanted to go near.
Who might those people be in 2019? Who might these people be in Otley? Monroe? Sully? Reasnor? Pella? Prairie City? The fact is, we must welcome EVERYONE because we all have the same label. Sinner.
Check out what Paul has to say to the church at Ephesus, a church where the Jews were having trouble getting along with the Gentiles and vice-versa. You might argue nothing has changed. Ephesians 2:14-19, 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens,[d] but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.”
Recently our church made some changes to the sanctuary to accommodate for some of our members. We took out a pew and put padded chairs in their place. We also found, some of those individuals who liked the new padded chairs desired to sit closer. So we moved a couple of chairs where we had a short pew to make room for a wheelchair. Story is over, right? No. Around Christmas we had some of our Harthoorn relatives join us for church from NW Iowa. Our cousin, Landon, has cerebral palsy and is in a wheelchair. Because the padded chairs were in the handicapped space, Landon was forced to sit in the back with his family. Landon, nor his family would not be the type of people to raise an issue, yet it happened. I know if our deacons knew the situation (and the members who used those padded chairs in the handicapped area) would be more than happy to accommodate for Landon and his family. Yet, this has been a teachable moment. Christ opened our eyes and our minds to ask the question, what do we do if this happens again? How can we make sure everyone is welcome at the table?
Friends we cannot discriminate. Friends we must speak out for our brothers and sisters of other races. We cannot and should not discriminate based on color, creed, sex, gender, or anything else. We are called to love. As the late great Rev. Billy Graham said, “It is the Holy Spirit's job to convict, God's job to judge and my job to love.” How well have we loved those who are different from us?
Church, we have work to do. We have to embrace the fullness of God and this means embracing those different from us whether in thought or looks. This means bringing together, Black and White, Rich and Poor, Female, Democrat and Republican, educated and school of life, white collar and blue collar, Iowa and Iowa state, Christian Reformed and RCA, Calvin and Hope, Dordt and Northwestern, Central and Simpson. It may mean a few sacrifices on our end, but this should be something we do joyfully as we prepare our hearts and ourselves for eternity in heaven.