I wrote last night about my thoughts after hearing the APC song Judith in the car on my way to visit my family, and upon further thinking on the songs I mentioned, along with a sermon I listened to this morning by Mark Driscoll, I had a few more thoughts that I would like to share.
I think that the picture of heaven and reward, along with God, that Keenan paints in Wings for Marie is a flawed one, but flawed in such a way that many people would not think of or even realize was flawed. In the climax of 10,000 Days, Keenan writes about his mother:
You’re the only one who can hold your head up high
Shake your fists at the gates saying:
“I’ve come home now!
Fetch me the spirit, the son, and the father
Tell them their pillar of faith has ascended
It’s time now, my time now, give me my wings!”
It’s a common sentiment that heaven is the reward for piety on earth, illustrated here by the wings. He tells his mother to boldly approach the gates of heaven, shake her fists in pride and demand her reward. I think that many people in our culture would think this to be an appropriate, natural action to take. Even the the Apostle Peter asked Jesus, “We have given up everything to follow you! What will we get in return?” And Jesus does respond with promises of eternal rewards and everlasting life. The idea of rewards is Biblical, and Jesus makes it quite clear that Christians can expect a reward in heaven.
There is a subtle flaw here, however, for Keenan’s suggestion to his mother is troubled by a lack of understanding of what it means to truly follow Christ. Can you spot the problem?
While it is true that God has promised us rewards, we are not to shake our fists at the gates and demand our reward. Pride and a sense of entitlement have no place in heaven. Humility is a key point of Christian living, and if Keenan’s testimony of his mother’s faith is any indication, Judith knew this. She would not have approached the gates of heaven shaking her fists, but dancing and singing praise to her Lord. Even the angels, the sinless beings created specifically to be in the presence of God, cover their eyes and their feet as they cry “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Hosts!” Even they know they are not worthy to gaze upon God, much less make demands of him.
No, we are not to approach our Lord with our demands. We are to approach him with open, empty hands, crying “Abba” – for we have nothing to offer but ourselves. Even our most pious works are worthless, tarnished by our sin and failures. But by the grace of God, we have hope. He has offered us not just redemption from our evil ways, but eternal life in paradise with him. We cannot demand this, because we do not deserve this. We don’t deserve anything but the fires of Hell. But the Lord, in his infinite mercy, has given us everything if only we will follow him and accept his free gift of salvation.
I hope Keenan one day accepts this gift. As my friend Scott pointed out to me earlier, Keenan’s passion and talent could be used in mighty ways for God’s kingdom – he is anything but lukewarm.