by Rubel Shelly
Published in LoveLines (Apr. 14, 1993)
Knock, Knock. Who's There?
There is a story about John Wesley that bears periodic retelling. It points to an issue that was once a matter of priority among people within my own heritage. The topic seems to be a matter of neglect ¾ if not embarrassment ¾ among some today. To others of us, it remains precious and seems to be mandated by the gospel itself.
According to the story, Wesley was once very biased concerning denominations and denominational allegiances. A dream he had changed his perspective.
In his dream, he was transported to what appeared to be the very gates of hell. There he called out, "Are there any Presbyterians here?" "Yes!" came the reply.
"Are there any Roman Catholics?" he continued. "Yes!" was the response again. "What about Congregationalists?" he pressed. Again, "Yes!"
With some hesitation, he summoned his courage and said, "Not any Methodists, I hope!" To his dismay, the same answer came as before. "Yes!" the voice replied.
In that very instant, the dream changed. Now Wesley was standing at the gate of heaven. He began asking the same questions as before. "Are there any Presbyterians here?" "No!" was the firm response. "Any Roman Catholics?" Again, "No!" "Congregationalists?" "No!"
Finally he came to the question he most wanted to ask. "Are there any Methodists here?" He was absolutely stunned when the same stern reply came back, "No!"
In a mixture of shock and dismay, he called out, "Then please tell me who is in heaven!" And the answer was shouted back, "Christians!"
Our world is known by its divisions -- Democrat vs. Republican, haves vs. have-nots, blacks vs. whites, Jews vs. Gentiles, males vs. females, employers vs. employees, etc. Is there no place where unity exists? Is there no bond that will transcend our boundaries and walls?
God has purposed to create unity among all these alienated people in Christ. "There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Gal. 3:28).
Before you choose to identify yourself by any other label -- "I'm Baptist," "I'm Catholic," "I'm Presbyterian," "I'm Church of Christ" -- remember the (biblical!) answer that came to Wesley in his dream. Who will be in heaven? Christians!
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