You walk into a mall and guess what?! Your favorite movie star Shah Rukh Khan is there to promote his latest film. He is taking selfies with his fans. You seize the opportunity and get a selfie with the man. It turns out be a very good picture. You publish it on all your social media feeds. You even hang the picture on your living room wall for everyone to see. People are amazed that you “know” Shah Rukh Khan and evidently you too are quite proud of yourself.
Then, one day, you are hanging with the gang in Bandra and someone says, “Hey look! Isn’t that Shah Rukh Khan’s house right there? Let’s drop in and say Hi.”
Flummoxed, you don’t know how to deny it all. Before you know it, you are at the main gate. The security guards ask you what you want. Your chums chip in: “He is a very close friend of Shah Rukh Khan.” They whip out your phone, show the guards your favorite picture, and sure enough there you are hanging out with the man himself.
The guards apologize: “Very sorry, sir. Please go right in. Shah Rukh Khan will be delighted to see you.”
You are now in Shah Rukh Khan’s living room. He’s been told a very close friend is here to see him. He will be down shortly. Now, here’s my question: When Shah Rukh Khan sees you, what do you think he’ll do? What will he say?
While you are wondering about that, let me take you to Matthew 7 where Jesus warns Christians they might face a similar dilemma. Because while we are busy taking selfies with Jesus (by being visible in the church, singing in the choir, sporting crucifixes and rosaries), the singular question on which our fate rests is: Do we know Him at a personal level? Yes, we know all about Jesus (like we know all about Shah Rukh Khan), but do we KNOW Him, like on a one-to-one basis?
And even more importantly: Does He Know Us?
Jesus said: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ (Matthew 7)
“I don’t know you! Get out from my house!” – Isn’t that what Shah Rukh Khan is likely to say too when he sees you in his house, masquerading as a friend?
Shah Rukh Khan’s house is for him, his family and his friends. It is not for every freeloader who happens to be carrying a picture of him. Similarly, heaven is for God’s friends — those who actually took time to nurture a relationship with Him. It is not for everyone who just happens to be hanging on to a crucifix, a rosary or a supposed picture of Jesus, or St. Anthony or any of the other saints.
In short, the main criterion for entry is RELATIONSHIP, not Religion.
Jesus said: “Many are called, but few are chosen.” And, Yes, in Christ we all have free invite to the banquet in heaven. But we need to be watchful lest we be thrown out like the man in Matthew 22 who was invited to the wedding banquet but then cast out because he wasn’t wearing the right clothes. So, what is the right outfit for entry to heaven? It is Righteousness predicated on Relationship.
Think about this: How did you and your best friend become best friends? I imagine there would have been a lot of candid talking, and lots and lots of sharing (of both good stuff and bad). You would need to hang out together — a lot! To the point where you can trust each other and where you become the first responder in every crisis. That’s how we forge a strong bond with fellow humans, and guess what? That’s how you forge a bond with God too. By spending time together, talking, listening…
Then, one day, when you find yourself in His living room, you won’t have to worry about what He will say when He sees you. He’s going to rush down and simply embrace you just like you would hug a dear friend. There won’t be any need for words. And even if you try, He’ll say “Ssshhh!! You don’t need to say anything. We spent so much time talking with each other when you were on earth. I already know all about you. Just make yourself at home.”