The Game of Religion.
A man arriving at the proverbial Pearly Gates is unsure what to do. Do I simply walk in? he wonders.
St. Peter recognizes the look of consternation on the man’s face, approaches, and asks him if he might need some guidance.
“I’m not sure what I am supposed to do,” the man begins. “Do I simply walk in?”
“It depends,” says Peter, smiling.
“It depends?” The man is surprised. “On what?”
“It depends on how many points you’ve earned,” offers Peter.
“Points? I need points? How many points do I need?”
A hundred? the man thinks to himself. That can’t be difficult, surely I have earned a hundred points. He turns back to Peter. “So, for the last fifteen years I have been serving on Saturday nights at the soup kitchen, helping with the poor?” He offers it hopefully, more a question than a statement.
“That’s wonderful!” exclaims Peter. “I will give you a point for that.”
“One point?” The man is shocked and looks at Peter, who is enthusiastically nodding. In that moment the man realizes that this is not going to be easy.
“Well,” he hesitates, “I was a pastor for thirty-five years. I did everything that was asked of me. Preached and married people,, counseled and buried people…””
Peter is looking grim, “Ah, I don’t know…”
“Peter, please, thirty-five years.”
Peter thinks quite for a moment and then smiles. “Okay, I will give you a point for that!”
Now the man knows he is in trouble. His whole life had been basically summed up in two points and he has ninety-eight to go.
Movement catches his eye, and looking across the way he sees a man who had lived in the same town in which he pastored. He didn’t know him well, he was the sort of person who came to church services on Easter and Christmas. He did remember that this man owned or worked at a coffee shop in town and had always seemed pleasant, but he’d never engaged much with the religious community. To his surprise, the man smiles, waves, and then without hesitation walks right in through the Pearly Gates.
“What?!” he exclaims, turning to Peter. “Are you telling me that that guy has a hundred points?!”
Peter laughs, “Oh no, he just doesn’t play this game.”
(From “The Lies We Believe About God.” Wm Paul Young)
Change me O God, into one who no longer tries to earn your approval or affection, knowing I have it already. It’s not about my performance or becoming pleasing to you, for I am in you already. I have loved religion and the church all of my life and have given my life to it. For all that is good about it, I thank you. But for all the ways it fails, help me to be continually aware, so that I never again fall into it’s trap of using it to try to bind myself back to you. For you have bound me to yourself.