WHY AM I DOING THIS?
(Am I afraid of hell? Or am I longing for heaven?)
Coming to the home stretch of Lent with Palm Sunday coming up next Sunday, followed by holy week, and then Easter is here. As I see the light at the end of the tunnel of this Lent, I took a step back and was candid enough with myself to say, “Why have you given up caffeine for 40 days?” I am a caffeine-aholic and I can say I have missed it. So, why give it up for lent. Why the almsgiving, Why the fasting, Why the prayer? What is at the core of all these activities?
I found two questions at the core:
Am I afraid of going to hell? OR Am I longing to go to heaven?
I will suggest that we cannot answer “yes” to both questions. It is true that both answers seem to get you to the same place, but the motives are entirely different and I think to be a follower of Jesus, motive is very important. I believe that there is a transformation that happens throughout our lives that makes us less scared of hell and more longing for heaven. One theme that I have been considering is the transformation that takes place from the Old to the New Testament how that is seen in going from the 10 Commandments in the old covenant to the Greatest Commandment of Jesus in the new Testament and in the new covenant. Mt 22:37-39
The 10 commandments are there for the base, the “do not do’s” to keep you out of hell.
The Greatest Commandment:
37 ...‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ (Mt 22:37-39)
These two commandments are the “to do’s” to get you into heaven.
I don’t need to lose the 10 Commandments, they are important, they are the rules that keep me out of hell. But Christ, as the new covenant calls us to more to be in communion with him. That calling of Christ for more, is the transformation that I need to align my actions, thoughts, words and overall being with God. God’s grace gives me the direction to find it.
What I heard on Sunday was the movement from an intellectual process of the mind to a soulful movement of the heart. The “do not do’s” of the 10 commandments are an intellectual exercise that convince us that if we live up to the law, we will not go to prison. That is how society works even today, break the law, suffer punishment. Logic cannot argue with staying away from punishment.
The first reading from Jeremiah on Sunday hit the transformational moment for me (or series of moments for me)(Jer 31:31-34). My Bible has this section titled the New Covenant, and Jesus is the fulfillment of Jeremiah’s prophecy.
“says the LORD.
I will place my law within them and write it upon their hearts;” (Jer 31:33)
Those words, “write it upon their hearts”. That is it. The new covenant and the call of Jesus is not an intellectual exercise, it is a soulful calling on how to get closer to God, find God and be in communion with Him. Most, would call that heaven.
So, at this time, I would have to say that I would still have to answer “yes” to both questions about the after life – that I do fear heaven, but I am longing for heaven. Let’s pray that Lent tips our scales a little closer to have God’s covenant written on our hearts so that are actions and motives show that we are longing for heaven.
Reading 1 Jer 31:31-34
The New Covenant
The days are coming, says the LORD,
when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel
and the house of Judah.
It will not be like the covenant I made with their fathers
the day I took them by the hand
to lead them forth from the land of Egypt;
for they broke my covenant,
and I had to show myself their master, says the LORD.
But this is the covenant that I will make
with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD.
I will place my law within them and write it upon their hearts;
I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
No longer will they have need to teach their friends and relatives
how to know the LORD.
All, from least to greatest, shall know me, says the LORD,
for I will forgive their evildoing and remember their sin no more.