First on that list is Angelia Jolie. Here is the description of her efforts:
Cause: Helping refugees, disaster victims, orphans. Jolie, 31, began work with the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees in Sierra Leone in 2001, the year she became a goodwill ambassador. She has put her time, influence and millions of dollars into helping people in Sudan, Chad and Thailand.
Impact: She donates one-third of her income to charity, and her three adopted children—Maddox, Zahara and Pax—are examples of her continuing commitment to helping those in need.
The list actually under reports the things that she does.
This gets me to my question about heaven.
I am absolutely convinced about several things. I am convinced of every word of the Nicene Creed. I believe in the virgin birth, I believe Jesus sat in the temple as a boy and amazed the rabbis with his knowledge of God. I believe in everything from turning water into wine to his death, resurrection, and ascension. I believe he will one day reappear. I believe those things.
But as certainly as I believe those things I also believe – by necessity, not by choice – other things, scary things, intimidating things. I believe, for instance, that Jesus’ words at the end of the 25th chapter of Matthew’s Gospel are true:
31“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. 32All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
34“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
37“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’
41“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
44“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
45“He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
46“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
Those words should absolutely terrify every person who purports to follow Jesus. Every person who has uttered any words that they want their lives to be about following Jesus must come face to face with those words. Because in those words Jesus does not say, “If you say ‘I accept Jesus as my Lord and Savior’ you will enter heaven.” No, Jesus throws the eternal curve ball. Jesus says faith must mean something serious and sacrificial when it comes to helping those who are sick and imprisoned and hurting and THAT matters when it comes to that final question of who gets into heaven.
So with that thought in mind I return to Angelina Jolie. She is not, based on my knowledge, someone who describes herself as a “Christian.” She doesn’t write “Christian” books and she doesn’t make “Christian” movies – at least in the way that some “Christians” define such things. But I find it hard to believe that at the end of days she won’t meet Jesus’ gaze and perhaps be shocked to find him saying to her, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” On that day I am betting she will get an eternal reward.
Now, what about Jim Dobson? What about me? I feel like my chances are the worst of all. Despite all of the political things that Jim Dobson has done that I so fundamentally disagree with there is also the reality that he started a ministry called Focus on the Family that – when it was actually focused on the family – did (and still does) great things to help people. Millions of families have benefited from his advice and counsel about raising kids. He is encouraging adoption. He has done much. Again, I want to emphasize that I am NOT pronouncing spiritual judgment about any individual – rather I am using his life and Jolie’s life as examples.
Me? I don’t know. I knew someone once who said that his career goal was to get into heaven. I didn’t really understand it at the time. I thought it was kind of glib or cute. I think I get it now. I think I get more and more every day that getting to heaven is something that requires effort, not just something that can be taken for granted. No one “deserves” heaven. But the more I look at Jesus’ standards the more convinced I am that I think I am the least deserving – at least between Angelina and Jim. I am working to change that.