by Ken Rolheiser
Pushing into Heaven

One afternoon, Andy confessed to his coworker Richard that he craved going to a strip club a few miles from his house. At a fork in the road, a left turn led home, but a right took him to the strip club he had often frequented. Richard prayed with Andy and assured him Jesus would help him resist.

In pouring rain when Andy approached the fork in the road. In the mist he saw Richard standing at the fork with a large piece of cardboard. On it was an arrow pointing home. Andy turned left toward home that day, and every day since. (Pastor Garrett Kell).

The phrase “pushing into heaven” evokes curiosity and wonder. Jesus gave us the image of trying to get a camel through the eye of a needle. The metaphor here likely implies a small Jerusalem city gate that a camel would have trouble entering.

In the comparison Jesus made we can see that it is as hard for some of us to enter heaven because we are trapped by worldly desires that keep us away from Sunday worship and instead, follow money or pleasure as our idol. We may need a push to get us through heaven’s gate.

We do not know how many prayers our parents and grand parents say on our behalf. The burden of wealth and earthly attachments often keep us from embracing spiritual truths. Yet, with God all things are possible.

One incentive God gives us is occasionally letting us glimpse heaven ourselves or through the eyes of others. On January 18th, 1989, Don Piper died in a car accident. Ninety minutes later, after a preacher prayed over him, Piper came back to life with an extraordinary story.

Piper, a Baptist minister, insists it was no dream: "It was the most real thing that ever happened to me." On a bridge in Texas a truck plowed into Piper's car, leaving him with horrific injuries. "I took my last breath here in the car, and I took my first breath there at the gates," he said. 

“In heaven there is no artificial light, God illuminates it with his glory," he said. His grandfather welcomed him "home," he said. "Some of these people who met me at the gates, I haven't thought of in decades." Piper came back to earth when a motorist Dick Onarecker prayed over him. 

Piper regained consciousness as he joined in the song “What a friend we have in Jesus.” Dozens of surgeries later he was able to walk again and witness to his ninety minutes in heaven. “I can’t wait to go back there,” Piper says. "I know it happened in my very soul, my very being," he said. "It is now my reality.”

So how do we push people into heaven when they seem reluctant to give up the temporal things of this earth? Theologian Farther Ron Rolheiser gives us this insight.

“We are the body of Christ on earth and, like Jesus, have the power to bind and loose. Among other things, this means that when our loved ones no longer walk the path of explicit faith and church with us, we can connect them to the faith, the church, the body of Christ, and heaven itself simply by remaining bonded with them in love and community. 

“By being connected with us, they are connected to the church (since we are the church). Moreover, when we forgive them anything, including their non-church going, they are forgiven by the church and forgiven too, Jesus assures us, in heaven.”

(594 words)