Dead Man Walking
“Raise your hand if you wan’t to go to heaven.” How many times have you heard this? I’ve heard this particular imperative statement at least a dozen times at various churches or events and once or twice I might even have raised my hand. It’s kind of hard not. More than once the preacher or speaker was a pretty compelling storyteller painting a beautiful picture of the life of the Christian life. The life they were offering was so much better than the life I was living…as a Christ Follower. I don’t mean to imply that I had a horrible life or that I wasn’t living a life commensurate with my status as a GUBA, a particularly ammusing sociological term (Grown Up Born Again). Actually, my life just seemed sort of average and…well…uninspired. Life seemed hard an monotonous. The life they were offering seemed shiny and new full of hope and full of dreams. Add in a few choruses of Softly And Tenderly Jesus Is Calling and suddenly you find yourself raising your hand.
There’s nothing wrong with raising your hand. There’s nothing wrong with a preacher or speaker making this statement. However, a statement like this and the message that often comes before a statement like this seems like an offer of a good life or a better life or a life devoid of hardship. I can’t imagine life apart from Christ. I can’t imagine going back to a life that felt overwhelmingly meaningless, empty, and dark. A life full of shame, doubt, and hate. My life has been transformed in a way that’s very hard to articulate. It’s radically different for the better, but it’s not a life of ease or comfort. It’s sort of shock to find out there’s no Airline to Heaven.
Rabbi Jesus was standing before his disciples who were inquiring about what to do to get into heaven and he said take up your cross and follow me. Such a scandalous thing.