It’s time to talk memes again.
I have seen several different versions of an irritating meme circling around. This meme always has a tacky, Thomas Kinkade-style painting of a wrought-iron gate up in the clouds on it. Superimposed over the Heavenly gate is some version of the following: “Remember, Heaven has a wall. It has a big beautiful door. And you need extreme vetting to get in.”
At first I thought this meme was being promulgated to defend President Trump’s travel ban as a good Christian thing. Then I thought, perhaps, this was one of those stupid sermons that attempts to take any random thing from your culture and make it into a smarmy Bible lesson– similar to that unintentionally grisly meme about the human soul being a Jack O’Lantern. I suppose that it’s likely both; people are sharing the meme around to defend the travel ban and also remind people that the path is narrow and few take it.
Let’s take a closer look at it, shall we?
First of all, I am extremely uncomfortable with any line of thinking that sets up the president as God. I think this about all presidents, from Washington to Obama to the Tangerine Menace. If you defend a president’s actions by saying “The Creator of Heaven and Earth does it,” I think you’ve made a huge mistake about what an elected official is.
That being said, let’s compare immigration to passing through the gates of Heaven. If I read Scripture correctly, the walls and the beautiful pearly gate are of the New Jerusalem, which is not a place we migrate to– it’s described as coming down from Heaven to us when the old world has passed away. It’s something God wants to give to us, a place He wants to gather us in, not someplace we have to fight to get a visa and fly into. That would seem to be an enormous difference.
And, the “vetting” process for Heaven is entirely different from the travel ban. Our Farther doesn’t need ninety days for a background check; He doesn’t even need one. He already knows who we are. He knows what we’ve done and our state of mind when we did it. He knows very well that, with the exception of Christ and the Theotokos, there’s not a single soul who hasn’t failed miserably. We’ve all been terrorists against the Kingdom of God at one point or another. We all deserve to be sent right back to the hell we’ve served. There’s no hiding that from the Just Judge. Thankfully, the Just Judge will be perfectly happy to clear our record and welcome us in, if only we confess our crime and repent.As a matter of fact, the Just Judge took the form of a refugee Himself, in order to open that big beautiful door in the walls of Heaven, so that we might all be saved.
And now, what are the crimes we’re supposed to confess? What have we done that bars us from Heaven? What does the Heavenly Jerusalem regard as an act of terrorism against it?
Christ told us quite plainly.
When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, He will sit on His glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate the people one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep on His right and the goats on His left.
Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink, I was a stranger and you took Me in, I was naked and you clothed Me, I was sick and you looked after Me, I was in prison and you visited Me.’
Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You something to drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? When did we see You sick or in prison and visit You?’
And the King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me.’
Then He will say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave Me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave Me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, I was naked and you did not clothe Me, I was sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’
And they too will reply, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’
Then the King will answer, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for Me.’
And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
That ought to be enough to scare every one of us.
Your neighbor is Christ. The more help your neighbor needs, the more she is Christ for you. The more helpless she is, the more you are required to help her. Even if she’s inconvenient. Even if she’s bad for the economy. Even if she comes from the Middle East and has a foreign name. If she is a person in need, she is Christ, and your soul is vetted by how you treat her.
This is a very hard saying, and few can accept it.
If we can, however, we will find the door open, and Christ will extend mercy to us.
It would be hard to fit all that on a meme, though.
(image via Pixabay)