Faith: A dream of heaven reminds to live life with love – Austin American-Statesman

Posted By on July 10, 2022

By Walt Shelton| Special to the American-Statesman

I had a vivid, anthropomorphic dream about heaven last night. I died in my sleep and immediately experienced the luminosity of heaven, which is my hope and expectation.

Although beset with imagery of St. Peter at a gate with the key since childhood, instead I immediately found myself in the most glorious forest with beautiful trees, rich green meadows, and numerous paths full of diverse people, many happily walkinghand-in-hand.An enormous snowcapped mountain spanned the horizon.It appeared as if all the varying paths led toward this peaceful, majestic mountain.

The first person I saw, my apparent host, walked toward me as soon as I entered heaven. There appeared to be other hosts nearby as well.My thin, average-height greeter and host approached me with a smile, outstretched arms, and inclusively open palms facing upward and toward me. He was dark-skinned and Jewish with longish hair. He welcomed me with a gentle hug and a whisper: Welcome home, my friend.

Without question, this was Jesus in his early 30s in the human form and context that he lived on Earth centuries before.

People have varying conceptions of an afterlife or not! People often support radically different post-death expectations with varying verses from the Bible, which unsurprisingly differ because they are from different times, contexts and authors. I personally believe the Bible is a collection of inspired works from varying times and contexts. God gave us minds to prayerfully study and reflect on its varying books in search of consistent themes.

Three aspects of my dream immediately and significantly hit home. First, Jesus in time was a Jewish rabbi. Jesus greeting me, a Christian, as a loving, welcoming rabbi was no surprise.

A cursory reading of any of the New Testament Gospels confirms Jesus was Jewish and the church is rooted in and an outgrowth of Judaism. This simple yet fundamental fact is often misunderstood or somehow unknown.

In her thought-provoking book, "The Misunderstood Jew," Amy-Jill Levine strongly advocates mutual respect and interfaith dialogue between Jews and Christians.She correctly asserts that Jesus of Nazareth lived and died a faithful Jew and spoke to Jews from within Judaism.Those are keys to better understanding Jesuss teachings, which requires some elementary knowledge of first century CE Judaism.

In bridging the divide between Christians and Jews, we should appreciate as Levine emphasizes that both church and synagogue have an ultimate focus on peace discovered through a combination of action and belief.For me, faith in action is what unites not only Judaism and Christianity but all authentic faith traditions.What counts is love in action. Loving others is the supreme priority of life and a striking commonality for Jews and Christians (Leviticus 19:18; Mark 12:31).

This was the second reality of my dream: Love in action unites people of all legitimate faiths as well as every well-intentioned person.

There are many named paths to God with differing elements of belief, tradition, and customs, but the heart of each calls us toward active expressions of love and care. As Jesus said to his followers centuries ago: 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 in heaven (Matthew 7:21).

People of differing religious stripes call upon different names of Lords and Masters, but the active expression of love and care is what counts and brings meaning, fulfilment and salvation.As Jesus expressed in his Parable of the Great Judgment in Matthew 25, we must aspire toward practical daily acts of kindness, such asgiving food to the hungry, water to the thirsty, and clothing to the naked; welcoming strangers and caring for the sick; and visiting prisoners (Matthew 25:35 -36).

Finally, my dream represented salvation as a process that we diligently and progressively live to the extreme that it might be unlimited by our mortality.I recall that take-a-way years ago in reading C.S. Lewis "The Great Divorce." In my Christian tradition, Jesus announced in his earthly life as a rabbi that the kingdom of God was at hand to start his public ministry (Mark 1:15).A few decades later, St. Paul enjoined his readers at Phillippi to work out [their] own salvation because God is at work in you for his own good pleasure (Philippianes 2:12-13).

Paul also unambiguously informed his readers in Ephesus that God created [us] in Christ Jesus for good works to be our way of life (Ephesus 2:10). Similarly, Paul declared to the Galatians that the only thing that counts is faith made effective through love (Galatians 5:6).

No doubt, our salvation starts now in how we live each day.Does it end at death? As C.S. Lewis creatively depicts, we might just enter a next world at the same stage of spiritual progression as we leave this one, with continuing paths to follow and related choices to make to bring us nearer and ultimately fully to the whole experience of Gods peace. This would consistently equate to Gods mercy and love triumphing over judgment, because ultimately God is love (I John 4:16).There is no doubt that we must urgently work to live love-centrically every day of our one God-given mortal lives.

Whatever happens after death or when were asleep, the dream we need to realize in our country and world with immediacy is to wake up and treat everyone with love, care and respect.

Walt Shelton is the author of the Nautilus Award winning book, "The Daily Practice of Life: Practical Reflections Toward Meaningful Living" (CrossLink Publishing 2020), and "Authentic Living in AllSeasons: Focused, Fearless, and Balanced" (CrossLink Publishing 2022). Walt is a long-timeprofessor at Baylor Law School, environmental attorney, frequent speaker on life quality and faith-related matters, and leads discussion groups in association with The Church at Highland Park in Austin.

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Faith: A dream of heaven reminds to live life with love - Austin American-Statesman

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