My dear cousin Ellen passed away yesterday. Ellen responded to an altar call many years back, after a performance by my old Christian comedy act Isaac Air Freight. And so did our mutual grandmother, by the way (Grandma died a few years later).
Ellen was quirky, feisty, and fiercely loving—traits she shared with our grandmother. So, are she and Grandma in heaven now, because they “got saved”? Only God can answer that. But I will say this: something real happened to their hearts.
It’s not what we know, after all, neither is it the words we say nor the rituals we observe, that reserve a place for us in our Father’s house (2 Corinthians 5:1). It’s the condition of our hearts. We’re in this world to learn to love God and others (the two inseparable commandments upon which hang all the law and prophets—Matthew 22:40). That means, conversely, that at some point we must learn we’re not here to merely fulfill the demands of these temporal bodies before all the juice runs out of them. Anyone can understand this. It’s not an intellectual struggle, it’s a child’s struggle, a struggle of the will. Who will win, me or God? If I win, I lose, if God wins, I win. It’s the paradox of pride.
So, why would God leave us in a broken world with finite brains and faulty sensory gear to make such infinite, weighty choices? I can’t conclusively answer that, but I will say that there seems to be a certain efficacy to it. After all, if it’s not about what we know, but how we love, then a broken world full of contentious, hard-to-love creatures like ourselves might just be the best place to learn it.
I choose to believe my cousin Ellen learned it, and that even as I type this she and Grandma are whole and complete…
In our Father’s house.