Where is heaven?
My Father taught me this when I was just a child. He often told me of the early days of his marriage. He had opened a small jewelry shop store in a narrow house in Amsterdam. Poor Mother! She dreamed of a a home with a little garden. She loved beautiful things and spacious views. "I love to see the sky," she often said. Instead she found herself on a narrow street, in an old house--the kind with only a single room each story--with worn out furniture which they had inherited from Grandmother. Yet they were both happy, not because of circumstances but because of relationships in the circumstances.
There, in Amsterdam in that narrow street in the ghetto, they met many wonderful Jewish people. They were allowed to participate in their sabbaths and in their feasts. They studied the Old Testament together and on occaion, even the New Testament.
I have remembered, many times, the lessons I learned from my father about happiness and happenings. But never was it so clear as when I was in Korea, many many years later.
I had been in the Orient three months, spending much of the time in Korea. While there I spoke in many meetings in schools, orphanages, children's homes, and churches. One day, after I had spoken in a university, a theological student came to me. I had never seen such gloom on the face of a man who said he wanted to be a minister for the risen Christ.
"Why is it that you are so full of unhappiness?" I asked
"I have lost my way," he said sadly. "When I first became a Christian my pastor taught the Bible is true. In those days I had great happiness. But now I am studying the famous scholar, Rudolph Bultman, who says our Bible is full of myths and fables. I have lost my way and no longer know where heaven is."
I was angry. It did not seem right that the simple boys of Korea had to struggle throught this horrible theology. They studied many hours going to universities, going to school twice as long as students in America, yet because of what they studied, they often lost their faith. I answered his question about heaven by telling him what I had just seen and heard the day before while driving through the countryside.
There I saw the poorest shack I have ever seen. It was a tiny lean-to , made from materials collected from the garbade heap--pieces of cardboard, tin cans which had been smashed flat, old boards....As we drove past, though, I heard the beautiful vioce of a woman singing. Seldom, ever in the concert halls of
Europe, had I heard such a sweet voice. We stopped the car and listened, for it was like the song of a skylark.
I said to the missionary who was traveling with me, "Do you know that song?"
"Yes," she said, "it says, 'Where Jesus is, 'tis heaven there'."
Oh, how my heart leaped for joy as I heard this beautiful song coming from such a poor place. It is one thing to hear such a song in a dignified church, or pouring through tthe speakers of an expensive stereo set. But when one hears it coming from the poorest shack in the midst of such poverty, then it means something else.
I looked at the young theological student before me. "Jesus said, 'The Kingdom of heaven is within you' (Luke 17:21). Bultman is wrong Jesus is right. Heaven is not a myth or fairy story: heaven is a prepared place for prepared people. Theology in the hands of the Holy Spirit is a beautiful science. But in the hands of unbelievers it is death. If you want to find where heaven is, get out of your stuffy classroom and go back to the countryside. Listen to the simple faith of those who read only the Bible and trust only in God, not material things. What do they care if some theologian says that heaven is a fable. They have found Jesus, and where Jesus is, 'tis heaven there."
What a precious book this is!