Competing Thoughts on Heaven

Competing Thoughts on Heaven

He is God not of the dead, but of the living; you are quite wrong.” Mk 12:27

Yesterday was an interesting spiritual journey for me. One, I’m only beginning to process as I reflect on this scripture passage. In today’s reading, Jesus is questioned about heaven by some Sadducees, who do not believe in the resurrection of the dead. The dialogue matches the flow of my day.

My morning began by leading a celebration of life service for a wonderful woman who died this weekend. It was an emotional service because she had poured out her soul to so many people. The world will miss the joy  she breathed into it. Then, in the evening, I interviewed an amazing young man for the Ordinary Voices podcast. He shared his story about leaving his pursuit of the priesthood when he realized he was an atheist.

The interesting thing about the testimony of my guest was what first sparked his awakening to his atheism. It happened when he reflected upon heaven in a bible study group. He found Isaiah’s peaceable kingdom, where the lamb would lie with the lion, disturbing. Matter of fact, it got him angry. He explained, “How could life be interesting without a variety of emotions?” Conflict made possible the joy of reconciliation. Sadness made the relief of joy even sweeter. A constant state of joy seemed a prison of mundane existence. (My words, not his.)

On the other side of the day was a woman who yearned to go home. She had carried so many burdens throughout her life. Though her body suffered from fractures, arthritis, blood thinners and ulcers, she poured out her peace upon everyone. When I first met her, she was in the hospital and only wanted to go home to her house. Shortly before her death, I held her hand as she asked me, “How long do I need to be here?” The time had come and she wanted to go to a new home.

How can two wonderful people have such differing views about heaven? Two people grounded in the same scripture, who both pursued a life of faithfulness. Sometimes, I feel, we become too bound by what we can see and experience in this life. It clouds our eyes from greater things. To embrace heaven, we need to see death is not really death, and, life is more than just living. To fully embrace heaven is to trust in a mystery beyond our own understanding.

Click to read: Mark 12: 18-27

Reflection Questions:

  • Where is your concept of heaven most challenged or difficult to understand?
  • What do you hope it to be?
  • How would you speak to someone who lost their faith? How would those words affect your own faith life?
  • Where do you find life is more than just living?


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