The one who seeks God for righteousness sake, or for salvation’s sake.
Over my years I have imagined myself in several religious fantasies. I’ve imagined myself at the Sanhedrin trial of Jesus (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sanhedrin_trial_of_Jesus) where I would ask my own questions of Jesus and of Caiaphas. I have also often asked myself if the following proposition were offered to me, should I accept it.
The proposition is that I agree to go to hell alone with no further possiblity of achieving salvation, to be lost and forgotton by everyone, even God; in exchange everyone else in hell achieves salvation. Even Satan and the one third of the angels that fell with him go back to God. Even the absolutely unrighteous get forgiven and go back to God. Notice that my question is not would I accept this proposition, but should I accept it. Would you? What do you think you should do if offered this choice. What would Jesus do, you think?
I have not served God from fear of hell for I should be a wretched hireling if I served Him from fear; nor from love of heaven for I should be a bad servant if I served for what is given; I have served Him only for love of Him and desire for Him.
--- al-Hasan al-Basri (642-728)
When I was six and attending Baptist Sunday school, my class was given a lecture on heaven and hell, death and the afterlife. When the lecture was over, I asked, “Is there free will in the afterlife?” Apparently no one else had ever asked this question. I was told that, “No, there is no free will in the afterlife because then good deeds could be done in hell, while bad deeds could be done in heaven. But all that is already sorted out before anyone dies, so there is no room for moral agency after one is dead.” So then I asked, “If I don’t take my body with me, and I don’t take my free will with me, why am I supposed to care about having an afterlife at all?” The reaction I got was very surprising at the time, and at 57 it is still surprising. In response, I was told, “Don’t ask such silly questions, and stop being a smartass.” That was the end of the discussion.
It was not long before I made myself a prayer, which I have always kept in my heart and in my mind. "Dear God, let it be your will that will direct my life. Not as I would choose, nor as any person would choose, nor as any religious text would choose, but as you, dear Lord, would choose. This being done, I will be content." I am now curious. Although I might dot my I’s and cross my T’s different from you, in your own faith, do I sound like someone who would be damned for my honest trust and questions?
Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call to her tribunal every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blindfolded fear.
-- Thomas Jefferson
I believe that as a racist bigot must die to the person he has been when he hates, the unrighteous person must die to the person they are when they turn from the one true God. Such a death is frightening because it requires one to abandon the only sense of identity one has ever had. It requires one to leap into an unknown stranger’s identity and to trust it will be better than what one has always known. For the fear of hell I could not do such a thing. I doubt many of us could. For the love of righteousness I can do such a thing easily. As naturally as a simple child loves and is loved by their parents.
The following is from what I hope with be on my gravestone so as to provoke a thoughtful reaction from anyone passing by in happenstance. I offer it now as a thoughtful alternative to an afterlife of merely heaven, hell, purgatory, reincarnation, or the many other imagined possiblities.
David R. Hunt
It is said by some that there is a place where a bright, clear, mountain lake resides, a place where people of this world never visit. To attempt to describe it is possible, but all such tales are probably just fancy. Be that as it may, here is how it was described to me, in my sleep, by the spring rain, when I was still very small and trusting. I was very certain at the time that the rain had not lied or exaggerated, but as I grew older I came to doubt. This would seem to be our way. How sad.
The rain told me that the air at the lake was fresh and clean and yet so thin that I would faint were I to be there. This lake was in the midst of a forest of giant pine trees that appeared to reach forever to the skies above. In contemplating these trees one would wonder if this lake were not really just a small puddle on the forest floor. But as all bodies of water were the same to my singing spring rain, I imagine these distinctions had simply gone unnoticed.
There was something most remarkable about this lake. For I was told that all the souls of all the men & women & little children like myself washed through this water. There seemed to be some hint that all of life had passed by and was passing by this oasis whose place could not be named. As each new life was made, a handful of water was removed from the lake and placed within a mortal body. Day by day the water would be made purer or filthier as that life spent it’s limited time in the world. When that life was done, the water that had been given to it was returned to the lake as its body was returned to dust.
And such was how all the hope and travail of life would come to each new generation. Some would succeed more than it would seem they should and so returned to the lake the courage and celebration that they had made of their lives. Others learned the habit of fear and distrust in their lives when they were very young and so took very meanly of every opportunity as only a threat. They only returned water that was foul and putrid for what else did they ever know.
And so I was told, that was how it was with me and everyone who ever had been, or was, or would be. Parts of me had passed through many lives and parts of me were utterly new and untried. Parts of me would live other lives again and others would be forever still when I was done. None of us was ever created entirely alone nor could we ever be, for like the air and water of this world, which we all communally use and of which our bodies are literally made, our souls are unique and yet all made of the same stuff. How many times would you have to draw water from a lake to draw the same handful? Or is it just a silly question? I don’t know. Somehow it just doesn’t seem to be a very important question now.
What would be an important question anyway?
--- End of The Lake ---
I am asking the question “Why do I love God”? Do I stand before God with the attitude that he is the biggest, baddest, tyrant of all? Do I respect God for fear’s sake or for admiration’s sake? If I could serve God best by losing my own personal salvation, then should I?
I ask you… What is the prize?
"The dearest ambition of a slave is not liberty, but to have a slave of his own."
Sir Richard Burton
"None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free."
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
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