Once there was a man who died. He was a devout Christian man. In his life he worked to help the poor, was faithful to his church family, and good to his family. He felt especially burdened by the suffering of others. This compassion deepened as he got ill and suffered greatly himself. Near the end of his life he looked forward to the comfort of seeing God face to face, with suffering past.
When he died, he was ushered immediately into the presence of God. God looked him in the eye and said, “Well done my good and faithful servant.” Then God said, “I have chosen you for a special role in the future of all humanity.” “I am going to give you a choice,” God said, “and depending on how you choose, nothing will change for you or everything will change for the world. Are you ready?”
The man had no idea what was going on, this was not what he had expected, but he said, “Yes, I’m ready.” Then God said, “You can stay here, in heaven, for eternity with me and all the saints that have gone before you and will come after you. OR, you can give up heaven in exchange for my shalom being a reality on earth.”
“What exactly does that mean?” asked the man.
God said, “If you stay here, nothing changes on earth and you live forever with me. If you give up heaven, you will simply cease to be – no pain, suffering or eternal hell – you will simply cease to be. Everyone on earth will then be given one life-span. But during that life-span they will be loved and cared for. They will have the capacity to love and care for others. They will have food, shelter and clothing. They will have the opportunity to be educated and work in a productive and meaningful vocation. There will be no war, or violence or abuse. No need for prisons or hospitals or mental health facilities, for while on earth each person will experience wholeness and health until the day they die at the age of 100.”
You choose the ending:
a) The man thought for a while, and while the suffering of people on earth troubled him, It didn’t concern him enough to give up heaven. He choose to stay.
b) The man thought for a while, and while the glory of heaven and an eternity of God was beyond inviting, the suffering of people on earth seemed too great. He concluded that it was better for each person to truly live while alive than for him to live forever after death. He said goodbye to God and the world was transformed.
If faced with such a choice, what would you choose? Would you trade your heaven for the world’s shalom?