by Philip McPherson Rudisill
Composed before 2000 and slightly edited 1/19/2011
What angered Jesus was the refusal of the Jewish leaders (or people) to believe their own story and instead to take refuge in the wisdom of the world and to retain only the trappings of religion and then only in order to keep themselves different from the gentiles. Thus everyone lost: the leaders, the people and the aliens, for all were seeing a sheer specter, i.e., the semblance of a religion, a mirage which was taken for reality and which therefore constituted an hallucination
But what made him boil was the justification (via these trappings) of the exclusion of members of the Jewish community, like this thief, and that prostitute and the wounded man by the side of the road.
Jesus' cry must resonate through the ages into the soul of the Wesleyan: "this too is a son of Abraham! No one is to be excluded, although many there be who will refuse to come in to Abba/God's table, preferring to stand outside and complain about Abba's lack of discernment and justice."
The lawyers and the scribes figure out how to remain in conformity with the law of Moses, and thereby avoid all chance of divine anger, and nonetheless avoid any need for brotherly love and concern for the lesser children of Israel. It is the old story of minimalism, e.g., what is the least that I must do in order to get saved? The result is form and not substance, selfishness and not community. A minimalist cannot become transformed, for his focus is not on change and redemption but only on cost/benefit analysis, e.g., "it would be foolish to pay more than you have to, right?". Transformation requires a rejection of one's own attitudes and an earnest desire to be made over in another likeness. Such a transformed attitude is simplemindedness from the perspective of the minimalist, for it "makes sense" to get as much as you can at the least cost possible.
But Jesus even spoke to this prudence in this wise. "You think you are so smart. The real riches are only available in the transformed heart, for it is this heart alone that can endear you to Abba (God, literally: "Daddy"); and while it is impossible for you, sinful men, to fashion such a heart for yourselves, it is a free gift from Abba for those who will be humble enough to accept it as a gift. Therefore, if you are really clever, you will come to Abba and ask for the real treasures, the ones that cannot be taken away and which cannot lead you astray. You think you are so smart, and you are really quite stupid and are going to miss the boat entirely!"
Now once possessed of this new heart, the Wesleyan (or the transformed man, however he might denominate himself) is unable ever again to exclude another person from the circle of love, for these too are children of Adam, and as such are to be included. [The "children of Abraham" to Jesus, who spoke in a Jewish milieu, become the "children of Adam" to the Christian follower.]
This calls for an explanation. All persons whosoever are to enter into the kingdom of heaven. Only those who really refuse to come in will remain outside (and this includes Satan, who gets his kicks in keeping Abba from saying that all creatures enjoy my company).*
* Remaining outside is also a frame of mind, and many there will be who are in the room with Abba but who will refuse to see him because they will refuse to let go of their preconceived notions, e.g., "that cannot be Abba, because Abba would know that this person is an unpunished thief" or "was responsible for the murder of millions of innocent people." Or whatever.
Now there is a distinction in the kingdom, of course, but which is quite novel and unexpected. The unfolding drama of the heavenly vista will come across as in a dream to those who do not enter into this kingdom with consciousness. For example Hitler will see everything as a dream and thus as surreal. He will enjoy, but only as one enjoys a dream. Those who enter awake and like children, like Gautama the Buddha, will see the reality of the connection of the heavenly vista to the earthly one, but will not see the reality of the personages met in that kingdom, e.g., Jesus. To Gautama Jesus will be a product of the imagination of Abba and no more real (from the earth) than the angels who will also abound in the kingdom. What a loss!
It is only the Christian (in the transformed, all-embracing and all-encompassing sense) that will see the reality of Jesus, i.e., that he, Jesus, lived in Memoryland (the world of space and time called earth) and, therefore, that the story about him is a true story. The basis for that will be the transformation that has also taken place in our own lives, such that we will also see our lives as memory, while others, e.g., Adolf Hitler, will see their earthly lives only as a dream and a story of someone named Adolf Hitler, and who, as far as he knew, never existed but merely is a made up story.
The difference then is the difference between a great story and a great memory, between hearsay and experience, between make-believe and reality. The Christian alone shall live in the world of reality with Jesus, while for all others it will be make-believe .
Therefore the Wesleyan is not concerned about the metaphors of pain and suffering and hell fire for the unjust, but merely for the fact that their very lives and attitudes will lead them to see God and his love for them as a nice story, but nothing more, and thereby, relative to the awakened Wesleyan, will be in the hell of make-believe and will never be able to tell what comes next, e.g., perhaps the fires of hell; while those in the know, the Christian disciples, can simply relax in the presence of Abba and reminisce about his son Jesus and how they too were called and answered that call and joined him in making this kingdom a reality.
By way of analogy: Hobbes, the English materialist and philosopher, utilized the example of the village idiot who could not grasp the meaning of three, but could say "one one one" very accurately as the village clock was sounding the hour of three. The Wesleyan conceives of heaven as something like that, that the ordinary, unsaved people there are able to hear and see the one, the one, the one. But the Christian is able to discern and recognize the three and thereby to see everything with entirely different eyes and at an entirely different level; and that sighting makes all the difference!
And who would want to live in the world of one, one one, when the world of three is available?! It is for this reason that the Wesleyan does not condemn the sinner as rather laments him, i.e., laments the fact that he will be left with the one one one world and miss the three world entirely. For the three world, to be sighted in the next life, must be sighted first in this life, in the present world of time and space, the world of change and possibility of change, the world of earth. That is the reason the message is so urgent, and that is the reason that the Wesleyan is excited about the possibility of awakening people to this truth: "you are going to go to heaven; only you will not be able to appreciate it without having taken the hand of Jesus while on earth. It is that simple and the best of all is that you will then go ahead and experience now what is coming, i.e., you will enter upon the eternal life at this very moment, and the question about whether you will go to heaven at death becomes rather inane."
The central call of the Wesleyan is this: the greatest joy possible is yours merely for the asking, although asking for it as a beggar asks for a handout, i.e., humbly, or like a child, i.e., without self consciousness. And this is true whether you are beginning your life as a young person, or whether you are facing its imminent termination in a gas chamber as an action of the human legal system and which is even well deserved. At any moment God will take you for his own. The cost of delay is merely the cost of lost joy that comes from knowing the Living Lord. All else become dung in the eye of the Christian. We will be together in heaven one way or another, but you (who will not accept Jesus as Lord and Savior) will not be able to recognize me or yourself as having gotten there from earth unless you enter in while you are on earth and so enter through death while awake. Otherwise (you will "blink" upon death and interrupt the chain of connection and) it will be a dream and you will never understand. It is imperative therefore that a person accept the call of Christ here and now, for there will not be another chance.
Thus the sadness of this Wesleyan then is not that people might be missing from heaven (for all will be there), but rather that Jesus (and the peace and joy that come from his sighting) might be missing from their sight in heaven, and he will only be a hearsay story, a delightful story, but without the essential element which makes it a real story, namely memory extending back to time and space on earth.
Elements of the Fantasy
1. No one is to be excluded, except by their own desire. "This too is a son of Abraham".
2. No one can see the truth of Christ except he enter upon eternal life in this world of flesh.
3. No one can be thoroughly alive and awake in heaven unless he can see the truth of Christ, and this lack cannot be remedied by any amount of assurances once one is in heaven itself and beyond the bounds of time and space. It is the difference between the real and the surreal. And the difference there is the understanding which is only possible via an experience with Christ on earth.
4. To enter upon the eternal life is merely to desire it more than anything else, like a pearl of great price, and then to trust Abba through Christ to produce the transformation necessary for the faith to become sight. "In my hand no price I bring; simply to thy cross I cling!"
Elements of Faith (à la Wesley)
1. Believe that the scriptures promise perfection (in love).
2. Believe that God can accomplish what the scriptures promise.
3. Believe that God can do it now.
4. Ask for God to do it now.
The reader may find in The Great Divorce by C. S. Lewis a similar motif. I realize now (2017) that Lewis and I had similar intentions (although I was not aware of his The Great Divorce until 2015 and had composed this essay in 2000). See also: Awakening Atonement and Wesleyan Theology.
Here is a note from my journal of 12/20/15: Increasingly taken by Lewis thinking in The Great Divorce. I had something similar myself in mind. In my setting there were only two options available in Hell, either compete with lawless villains, restrained only by fear, and try to get ahead and nearer the top where one can also inflict more pain on more people; or retreat to a cave of total isolation and provided with all the physical needs of the inhabitant; but always alone. That was my take on hell.
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