While studying at seminary, I attended a local church. I enrolled in an evangelism class they offered that would study a curriculum and then go door to door in surrounding neighborhoods. The thought of it terrified me. I am an introvert by nature, and the idea of going to a stranger’s home unannounced seemed incredibly difficult. At that time however, I felt that spiritual growth involved doing difficult things, so I joined the class.
We were given a large green binder, packed with possible scenarios and sample conversations that we could practice. There were cards with verses on them to memorize and homework to complete each week. Once we had mastered the material, we would meet weekly for a semester, split in groups of three or four and evangelize the community.
There was one main question that we were to work toward in our conversations:“One day, long from now, when you die, if you were to meet God and He were to ask you, ‘why should I let you into my heaven?’ what would you answer?” It was designed to bring the conversation to a point of decision. Was this person a Christian? Did they think they were a Christian, but were mistaken? I knew the answer we were looking for because I had the large green binder, and we were trained to address any answer that didn’t fit what the binder said we should expect. Years removed from those door-to-door days, I have been thinking more about that question and how it must have sounded to the unsuspecting soccer moms and retirees we encountered.
Why should I let you into my heaven?
If God were to meet me after death and ask me that question, I think I would be taken aback. After all, it doesn’t really fit the way that God has related to me throughout my life. Jesus instructed his followers to refer to God as “our” Father. My experience with God has been with a Father who welcomed me in spite of my poor answers and unworthy behavior. He welcomed prayers from me when my motives for praying were flawed. He welcomed my efforts to serve others, even though they were sporadic and often self-serving. The question we were taught to ask looked for a rational, logical answer to a question that has little to do with reason and logic. It would be like summarizing our life together by asking my daughter, “and why should I include you in my will?”. The question isn’t relational or familial. It’s more like a question you would field when interviewing for a new job, rather than when talking with your Father.
None of the biblical writers gave us a clear list of the order of events we should expect after dying. My thoughts about what it will be like are only a guess, like everyone else. I imagine that Peter will be there to announce those arriving in the afterlife. “Ok, this is Michael Ramsey, the one from North Carolina”. At which point, God will say, “oh yes, we’ve been friends for quite a while, in fact, he’s like a son to me. Welcome home.” At this point, I feel sure I will feel ashamed at how poor a friend I’d actually been. Wondering how I could be welcomed after somehow managing to resemble both the prodigal son and the legalistic older brother from Jesus’ famous story. God will then talk about the weak and overlooked people that I’ve managed to help along the way. But I’ll know deep in my heart that I’m not worthy of any compliments or congratulations. I will know that I am there for one reason and one reason only: God’s good grace.
I’m not sure if any of our door to door efforts years ago helped anyone. I wouldn’t be surprised if they did. God always seems to produce something good out of my poor and clumsy efforts. I hope that those people have found the same welcoming, grace-filled God that I know. He is bigger than our incomplete answers and broken obedience. He patience seems to know no bounds. If they have met that God then I know that they are looking forward to meeting him face to face just as I am, not because of our worthiness. I’m not worthy, no one is. But because of His grace and love.