Atheists in the Kingdom of Heaven: A Retelling of the Good Samaritan

hitchhikderAnd behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.” But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

If Jesus told the story of the good Samaritan today, I imagine it would go somewhat like this:

Jesus replied, “A man was hitchhiking from Houston to Nacogdoches, and got picked up by some drunk country boys who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead by the side of the road. Now by chance a pastor was going down that road, and when he saw him he thought about stopping, but realized he would be late to his church council meeting. So he drove on. So likewise an elder of the church, who worried that the guy would bleed on his upholstery and find out where he lived, possibly jeopardizing the safety of his family. So he, too, passed by. But an atheist, as he journeyed from a Comic Con convention, pulled up beside him and had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, not worrying about possible lawsuits for unauthorized medical care. Then he covered him with his jacket and called an ambulance. He drove behind the ambulance so he could advocate for the likely-uninsured man once he arrived at the hospital. The next day he pulled out his checkbook and paid what he could for the man’s care, and then offered to get the guy a hotel room for a few days so he could recuperate. Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the unfortunate hitchhiker?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”

In those days, Samaritans were considered to be theologically inferior and unclean. I’m thinking that from the perspective of some Christians, atheists are the modern day equivalent. This begs the question: Do you have to subscribe to a certain theology to serve God and inherit eternal life?

I think not.

I don’t think God cares what we believe. I think He cares how we act toward our neighbor. In this story, it is the “unsaved” person who is truly living out God’s love and participating in His kingdom.


Maybe Heaven Isn’t What You Think It Is

the kingdom of heaven“Our Father, who art in heaven.”

I’ve spent some time thinking about these words lately. Like the word “our.” OUR father. All of humanity belongs to God, not just a select few. Or “Father.” That we have the DNA of the creator of the universe.

Last night, I was thinking about the words “in heaven.”

I don’t think one word of Jesus’ prayer is meaningless. So why would He say that our Father is in heaven? It sounds like, “Our Father, who art somewhere in the sky where we go when we die.” What would be the point of praying something like that?

What does “in heaven” mean?

I think it means an alternate reality. The true reality. What we see here is an illusion. The kingdom of God is at hand, is within us. It’s a kingdom we can see if we just become as little children.

Think about God as an ocean, with us being the fish.

The kingdom of heaven is at hand.

I really, really want to find the kingdom of heaven, and stay there. I’ve experienced it before. It’s a feeling of absolute peace, like you’re sitting in the palm of God’s hand, and no matter what happens, nothing external can bother you. Unfortunately, I seem to simply visit that place and then return fairly quickly to this plane.

I think part of the reason might be because I have this tendency to have to try to figure everything out. This is something that children don’t do. If a parent tells her child that she loves her, the child doesn’t question that. Children generally trust their parents.

Once a child becomes a teenager, though, the questions begin. So does concern about what other people think. A five-year-old doesn’t care if he’s wearing his brother’s hand-me-down shorts, but later, he’ll want to go to Abercrombie and Fitch. And when was the last time you saw a teenager clapping hands and singing at the top of her lungs in the car? It’s like they’ve left something crucial behind.

It seems like everything that the child leaves behind is what we need to seek in order to enter the kingdom of God.



Lack of concern about social standing.

Knowing the reality of unconditional love.

There is not a formula for reaching the kingdom of heaven, though, other than “Seek, and you shall find.” Or, “Ask, and you shall receive.” And I believe that we must seek and ask with our whole being, and not half-heartedly. Like we would sell everything we own for that priceless pearl. Everything.

The cool thing about God being “in heaven” is that He’s always here. We just need to open our eyes. I think there’s a reason why Jesus kept healing blind people. Sure, they needed to see, but why are those stories in particular told when the apostle John tells us that “the world itself could not contain the books that would be written” if he were to tell us of all the things Jesus did.

I think the reason Jesus healed the blind was to show us that we need to open our eyes.

There is a reality where you are okay, no matter what happens.

Where there is no hate.

No worry.

Where every single person walking on the planet is one of God’s beloved, and you can see that.

I LOVE just thinking about this.