If you fly out of the United States, there is a moment on the flight where the flight attendants come around with a small slip of paperwork for you to fill out. It’s the Customs form, where you declare everything you’re bringing into their country, and other pertinent information. And you want to be honest and follow the rules, because you could wind up in serious trouble if you don’t. If you get caught bringing in a prohibited item, you could be fined, detained, or prohibited from being allowed in the country.
There’s a parable in Matthew 18, where Jesus talks about forgiveness that made me wonder if Heaven has customs agents waiting on us.
The story Jesus tells, found in Matthew 18:21-35, is one of Trey*, who owes 10,000 Talents (we’re talking tens of millions of dollars) to a lender who is threatening to jail him for his debt. The indebted man begs for mercy, and receives it. On his way out, Trey runs into one of his business associates, Andy*, who in turn owes him about $10,000. Andy can’t pay back his debt either, but instead of receiving mercy, Trey throws him in jail. Naturally this gets Andy’s friends upset, who report Trey’s deed to his lender, who in turn throws Trey in jail.
The story was prompted by Peter, who had asked how many times someone should be forgiven of their sins by someone. Christ’s answer is “all of them”.
So what does this story have to do with Customs agents?
In the story, Trey represents us; someone who is indebted to someone to an amount that we cannot possible repay. God has forgiven us, despite the depth of our debt. But when Trey doesn’t forgive Andy, he shows that he’s carrying around some resentment and anger.
And there’s no room for anger or resentment in Heaven.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said that a Christian not only renounces their sin, they renounce their righteousness as well. As hard as it might be, you don’t get to take your anger, righteous or not, into Heaven with you. The Kingdom of God doesn’t have room for things like self-righteousness, pride, or resentment.
Instead the Kingdom only has room for grace, mercy, and forgiveness.
So what are you packing to take to the Kingdom? And what do you need to let go of?
*Please note that these names don’t actually appear. I just like having names to keep the story straight.