John Jewell tells the story of the man who came to the gates of heaven and was greeted by St. Peter. Peter asked the man to give a brief history of his life, in order that Peter could make an assessment of his suitability for entrance into the kingdom of heaven. “You will need one thousand points to be admitted,” Peter told the man.
“This will be a cinch,” the man thought to himself, confidently. “I’ve been faithfully involved in church from childhood.” The man began to list all his activities and all his achievements for Peter. He was an officer in his church’s youth group. He participated in every possible way he could as a youngster. As an adult he was on the church council and served on every committee the church had to offer. His list was extensive.
“Very impressive,” Peter said, smiling brightly at the man. An angel standing with them also smiled and nodded as he tallied the points and then whispered in Peter’s ear. Peter announced the tally to the man. “This is quite striking. We seldom see men with your level of commitment to the things of God. You will be pleased to know that you have 227 points. Is there anything else you can think of?”
The poor man at heaven’s gates broke out in a cold sweat and began to dredge through old memories to recall every single act of kindness he had offered. He listed them as the angel furiously recorded them on his angelic clip board. Let’s see … server at a soup kitchen, volunteer at a homeless shelter, tutor to disadvantaged children, generous donor of time and money to numerous worthy causes. “Yes, this will do it!” the man thought. When he finished the angel and Peter again had a whispered conversation. Then Peter turned back to the man and said, “This is quite exceptional. You now have a total of 402 points. Impressive, but can you think of anything else to recommend you?”
By now the man at the gates was truly distressed. He wracked his brain for good deeds and remembered helping an old lady across the street and paying bus fare for a stranded traveler. This time the recording angel and Peter came up with a grand total of 431 points. Knowing there were no more grand achievements or glorious acts of goodness that he could relate to Peter, the humbled man cried out in dismay, “I’m sunk! There is no hope for me! What more could I have done? All I can do is beg for God’s grace!” “Ah, now that,” exclaimed Peter, “is worth a thousand points!” And the gates to the kingdom of heaven swung wide open.
How many points could you tally toward your entry into those heavenly gates? Of course it matters how faithfully we live, how we deeply we love, how compassionately we serve. But none of us is really capable of earning our entry. And so, we all need the humble awareness of the man at Peter’s gate. What a soul-stirring, heart-healing realization it is to finally see that our lives have been pure grace from our first breaths to our last – and beyond.