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(OPINION) The paths we follow largely determine the size of our cup of joy in eternity.
For two weeks, we have been talking about a round trip, back and forth path leading to the fullness of salvation. We follow him in the church as well as outside its walls to find “suitable pastures”, vocations in the wider world. In and out, back and forth, we enter into the fullness of joy, the fullness of salvation.
But wait. In eternity there is fullness of joy for all believers. Everyone’s cup of joy will be to be full. So why worry about whether the paths we take will lead us to the fullness of salvation? Our cups will be full. Yes, but not everyone’s cup of joy will be the same size.
OK, but why bother? In a way, we shouldn’t. But in another we should. The marital gospel defines when we should and should not. Start with shouldn’t.
Jesus, our husband, “married” us on the cross. He wants us enter into his joy. When we are faithful to what Jesus has given us, we enter into the joy of our lord, our husband. Two become one, even though the size of our cups will be different. Not a concern. Different sized rewards – different sized cups – are based on God giving each of us “what our works deserve” (Revelation 2:23). Jesus says some will reign over ten cities, others over five.
But here is what should concern us. Lily all Matthew 25 passage. It starts with brides who are betrothed but deemed unprepared for the appearance of their husbands. In the same way, we have been saved but “must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ” to receive what is due for what we have done in our body, whether good or bad.
Yeah. Bad? Yes. We can be saved by physically doing bad things. Evil traces our own paths. They are often based on how we imagine salvation. Many Christians imagine salvation as I was saved, so I’m ready. I can do all kinds of bad things – pornography, adultery, slander, plagiarism, worship Mammon, etc. – but don’t worry since I’m going to heaven. God forgives.
I don’t know what we can do against this kind of attitude. I know what can be done for those concerned, who embrace the marital gospel: a back and forth journey to the fullness of salvation requires “receiving a prophet because he is a prophet”. Those who do so “will receive a prophet’s reward” (Matthew 10:41). What is that?
Receive a prophet means take into account his warning. Prophets are like crossing guards. They carry a sign saying “stop” on one side, “go” on the other. Prophets often flash the stop sign, warning us that the path we are on does not lead to the fullness of salvation.
Exhibit A: The Catholic Archbishop of San Francisco declares that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is no longer allowed to receive Communion because of her vocal support for abortion rights. He recognizes that Pelosi is not on a path to the fullness of salvation. The archbishop saves her life, because the Eucharist is the renewal of our marriage covenant with Jesus. It is a nuptial union, the body of Jesus entering the body of his bride. Opening Your Body to Christ While Advocating for Baby Murder risk illness and even death.
Of course, most Americans think that’s crazy. The archbishop judges. But this is why Jesus said that those who receive a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward. I love how Eugene Peterson renders this reward in Matthew 5:11-12: “Consider yourself lucky when people put you down or kick you out or tell lies about you to discredit me. It means the truth is too close to be comfortable and they are uncomfortable. You’re lucky because even if they don’t like it, I do! And all of heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always had these kinds of problems.
The reward of a prophet is receive no honor in their community of faith, family or hometown. Honor is respect and financial reward. Prophets usually get neither. True prophets have a set aside plan, accumulating rewards in heaven. On earth they are in trouble for rebelling against the religious community adultery, stubbornness, and rob God in tithes and offerings.
Adultery: Liberal religious traditions are adulterous when they affirm same-sex marriage. They are on a path that does not correspond to the marital gospel. It is not a path leading to the fullness of salvation. The prophets would say this is a path leading to the decline of these traditions.
Stubbornness: In Robert Bellah’s Prophetic Book “Habits of the Heart: Individualism and Engagement in American Life”, we learn that evangelicals – mostly conservatives – cling to wandering paths labeled as expressive individualism. It is defined as live out your faith on your individual church’s understanding of the scriptures rather than giving in to beliefs, catechisms, councils and traditions. The prophets would say these churches are on the way to malformation.
Exhibit A: Most evangelicals ignore Dallas Willard’s prophetic warning that “the ‘Western’ segment of the church today lives in a bubble of historical illusion about the meaning of discipleship and ‘gospel’. They stubbornly cling to paths to enlightenment that do not lead to the fullness of salvation. The prophets would say it is a path to spiritual arrogance, the worst deformity.
Finally, robbing God in our tithes and offerings: According to a recent study of the Philanthropy Chronicle, most Americans are not generous, at least as God measures generosity. Some Christians might define their giving as generous themselves, but the prophets would say no.
“Generous” comes from the Latin adjective “generosus”, referring to birth or origins. It is adapted from the Greek “genesis”, which means “beginning”. Being generous in the ancient world meant making a successful start in a high-born noble family. The prophets remind us that generosity is making our promising beginnings as the bride of Jesus a reality.
Those who do good do good. “Give and it will be given to you. A good measure, squeezed, shaken, overflowing, will be put on your lap. For with the measure you use, you will be measured(Luke 6:37-38). Everyone’s cup of joy is full in heaven, but some cups will be greater than others, “for the measure you give will be the measure you will receive” (Matthew 7:2). The prophets remind us that to give generously here = a generously large cup of joy in eternity. A lack of generosity here = a little cup of joy in eternity.
And that is why God places guardians, i.e. prophets, at the door, making sure that we go in and out, back and forth on the paths leading to the fullness of salvation.
Michael Metzger is the president and founder of the Clapham Institute. This piece has been republished with permission from the institute Blog.