“For I have no pleasure in the death of any one, says the Lord GOD; so turn, and live”
Q: “Since God is going to always take us at our best time, why is it so hard to enter the kingdom?”
This is a great question because it actually captures the contradiction of how we understand God really well. On the one hand, people talk about God being all loving and kind, and on the other hand, they talk about how sin leads to death and how we must not sin so that we don’t go to hell etc… It’s paradoxical!
Without getting into too long of a sermon (I’ll spare you!), fundamentals are often lacking a little bit. We have to always remember that when God created us, He created us not because He needed to, but because He wanted to, because He is love. So the whole foundation of our existence was always in the context of having a relationship with us. People don’t have kids to have random humans walking around the house. They have kids because they love them, they want to raise them, chill together, go through life together etc… There’s no major advantage to having them, we have them because we love ’em. That’s the first point.
The second point, is that we were created to be His image and likeness, or in normal words: we share His characteristics and were made to be just like Him – holy, loving, just, creative etc… Whatever attributes we have are because He is them. That’s the image we’re supposed to be trying to be. To use the analogy of having kids again, it’s just like how we try and live the standards and morality that our parents instill in us.
So what does that have anything to do with your question?
Well, the thing is, God is not standing up in heaven waiting for a great time to kill people. He’s not doing that. He’s looking at us always over all time, He doesn’t live in time like we do. So when people say that God takes us at our best time, I sometimes get uncomfortable because some people die in a really bad state, and I don’t think that God shot them down.
Instead, God says to us, “It’s my good pleasure to give you the kingdom”. He wants us to go, and it is not Him who is making the way tight or narrow. The reason why it sometimes feels hard is because of two things: we don’t live in a relationship with God, and two, because of this we often want to do what’s not actually good for us (e.g. sin).
If I’m in a relationship with someone that I actually like, I’m going to want to avoid doing things that are against our relationship. For example, a husband would be really upset if his wife spends hours talking on the phone with some other guy. A wife will be super upset if it’s her birthday or anniversary and the husband decides he’s going to ditch her to go watch a game with the boys. But neither of them should feel like they’re avoiding doing certain things because it’s a chore, they do it because they love one another. Or to drive the point more home, in choosing to love one person and get married to that person, you’re also choosing to NOT be in a relationship with the rest of the world, and yet you don’t feel restricted, and the reason is because you’re in love.
It’s the same thing with God, when we sin, what we’re doing is straying away from what we were supposed to be, or who we were supposed to be. This doesn’t make God angry, but it makes it harder for US to feel the relationship (I emphasise us, because we’re still in a relationship with Him in spite of our feelings). It’s like someone who is in love with someone but keeps doing stuff that rocks the relationship. Sin is simply falling short of perfection. If we fall short, He’s not angry and hating to reconcile us, that’s why He made confession so simple. It’s not about not doing a certain number of sins. It’s about whether or not we love Him and are in a relationship with Him, because if we were, we wouldn’t want to do anything that hurts our relationship with Him.
If a person, for example, is an exceptional athlete. The athlete knows that he can’t eat like a pig all the time, or he won’t be able to play well. Because he loves to play, he doesn’t want that to happen. He knows that he needs to wear protective gear sometimes or he’ll get injured. He knows that he has to do drills, even though they’re not as fun as the game, or he won’t become an expert player. He knows that he needs to avoid drugs or smoking or it will harm his health, his respiration and ultimately his ability to play etc… That’s exactly what spiritual life is like. Will we sometimes mess up? Yes, we will, but there’s no punishment for not loving, there are only consequences to choices! If there’s a punishment, it is a self-inflicted one: it is simply not having what you want! Yet, nobody did that to you, you did it to yourself. With God, though, no matter how many times you mess up there’s always a return. Athletic leagues, on the other hand, might not always be so forgiving.
So, it’s not that hard to go to heaven, actually. Because He’s not asking us to be the champions. He’s not going to have a problem with you even if you come in last place. He just wants us to respond back FREELY with love toward Him, and to care enough to try and be in the relationship. We refrain from something because we love, not because we fear. That’s why the Epistle says, “There is no fear in love, for perfect love casts away fear” (1 John 4:18), and why Abba Antony says, “I no longer fear God, because I love Him.”
So, I think the real question is, ‘how do I grow in my love for God?’, because I promise, going to heaven is not difficult. He is ready to die daily and over and over for every one of us because all He wants is for us to be with Him. It is our God who says: “For I have no pleasure in the death of any one, says the Lord GOD; so turn, and live” (Ezekiel 18:32).
No matter how many times you mess up or fall off the wagon, He’s not counting score. He will love you in spite of anything. He just wants you to show Him you believe and care and to love Him, too. So rather than focus on the sin, focus on the Love of God – just like you don’t focus on the disciplines you need for a game, you focus on the game itself. You know that you have to avoid certain things, but you do it for love of the game.
We love Him, because He first loved us. (1 John 4:19)