Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Matthew 7:21-23 -- On Heaven and Teen Fantasy

"Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.
Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?
And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity."
Matthew 7:21-23

Sometimes it is hard for us to reconcile the idea of God's love and the idea of God's rejection.  How could unconditional love ever end, or result in us wanting into heaven and him asking us to depart?  We're tempted to think that God should accept us all, no matter what, and perhaps like an elderly grandparent, just shake his head fondly at our "eccentric" behavior.  But that isn't the way that love works... or at least it isn't the way that it *should* work.
We are somewhat poisoned by the media, watching books and movies that hold love up as something that is universally accepting, and that has no aspect of choice associated with it.  Suddenly, you are just there, in love with a vampire, and there is nothing you can do about it. :)  We listen to songs about being overcome by love, forced into bad actions because of it... again, without being able to choose otherwise.  Some movies even go so far as to show why it is a *virtue* to give up heaven or transcendence or your soul, for love.  And let me just say now, if that is what love truly is, then it is dangerous beyond description and we should stay far away.  Luckily for us, love is not what the media portrays, and not what we read about in teen fantasy.  It isn't diminished at all by that... it is *better* than that.  True love is something we work at and choose every day... not something that just happens to us.
God's love is unconditional, but it isn't attached to universal acceptance, just as real love is not.  We can love a family member and still reject their behavior.  We can love someone and know that they are not a good influence on us, and that we should not hang around with them.  And that is okay, and that is still love.  The whole "if you *really* loved me..." line, or the idea that we should prove our love by doing something we aren't comfortable with is one of the worst, twisted, evil interpretations of affection that there ever has been.  You don't blackmail people that you love, or hold their affection hostage to your whim.  It's an immature, manipulative, harmful move.  ...And yet, this is exactly what we try with God sometimes.
We think that if God really loved us, he would accept whatever we want to do, no matter how harmful to ourselves or others.  But he won't.  And that's why some of us will say to God, didn't we do great things in your name?  And he will still love us, but ask us to leave.  Because love is actually getting to know God, and finding out who he is, what he wants, and how to do better.  It isn't just imagining him for ourselves or figuring that he accepts everything.  We have to work at this kind of love, every day... because it is the real kind, not the teen fantasy kind.  We have to know God, and be open to his knowledge of us, honestly and sincerely working through the things where we aren't in agreement, and realizing that we need to change the way we think and feel and act in order to truly understand him and allow him to make us what we can be.
Does that mean that God doesn't really love us, or want us around?  Absolutely not.  He loves us unconditionally, and welcomes us back, whether we deserve it or not.  If we are willing to follow his path, he will always help us.  Despite our challenging past actions, he will help us change into people who don't harm others, who don't make horrible choices, and who don't self-destruct.  He will never ask us to leave while there is even the tiniest chance that we can come back.  He only rejects us if we have well and thoroughly rejected him first, ignored all his warnings, and died in our sins.  So, hey... let's not do that. :)  Today, let's get past our teen fantasy view of the world, and get to know God and love him with some of that real, chosen, useful kind of love... the kind that actually helps us to be better, and makes the world better.


  1. Yes! So very true. In July 1994 for a Sunday School class of teens I was teaching, this came to mind (and I've been sharing it ever since) "One of the greatest stumbling blocks for us members of the church is that we like to think of ourselves as exceptions to the rule. We rationalize and maneuver to fit the standards and commandments to us when we should be using our energy to fit ourselves to the commandments and standards. We will never be let into the Celestial Kingdom as an exception. We will be admitted only when we fully conform to the standards set for admittance by our Father in Heaven." Rozann W. Thoelke, 27 July 1994

  2. Thanks Rozann. You make a good point. No one is an exception... we all have to get to heaven by following the example of Christ, and following his excellent advice by obeying the commandments. There are no shortcuts.


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