I saw myself in a great amphitheater. I looked to my left and right. The great multitudes of people there measured beyond fathom, though it made little difference—miles off into the distance, the crowds became enshrouded in a bright light. I looked down at a small platform upon which a single individual was seen by the countless masses. I dared not look up, for I knew deep in my heart the great power that hovered above us all.
As if by miracle, all the peoples who had gathered hushed as the one at the center of the platform beneath us began to speak. “My name is Martin Luther King, Jr. I showed love and taught to love, even in the face of adversity. I preached the gospel openly and emphatically. Because of the work of God in me, I have brought many of my fellow Christians to set aside their differences.” He announced with a louder voice. “I have renounced my sins, my possessions, and all the works of the devil within me, and I wish to dwell in the house of my Lord forever.”
I felt a great stirring in me, and it spoke: “This man is now blameless before the Lord and righteous. Would you spend the rest of eternity with him?”
The audience was mostly silent, though a few shrieks of “No!” pierced through at points. Their shouts were cut short in the middle of their utterance. As I saw the dissidents, I witnessed them vanishing into oblivion, the only remnant of their memory being the echoes of their refusal as they bounced across the unfathomable halls. I could feel that those beside me were grateful for the dissidents’ passage. I myself felt calm, though I wondered if that feeling was the same gratitude.
The blameless one stepped down from the platform to join the choir invisible, and another man took his place. “My name is Jefferson Finis Davis. I led a revolt against my government and in doing so propagated the enslavement of millions of fellow human beings. Despite my desire for peace, I am responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of my fellow countrymen, and the deaths of thousands of fellow men besides.” The words of his misdeeds faded through the crowd. “I have renounced my sins, my possessions, and the works of the devil within me, and I wish to dwell in the house of my Lord forever.”
The audience was silent. In fact, I could only hear the stirring inside me: “This man is now blameless before the Lord and righteous. Would you spend the rest of eternity with him?”
The cry all around me was a hundred times louder. “No!” shouted the many. They were driven from existence just as emphatically. Tens, no, hundreds of millions, vanished in a single utterance. I was taken aback just from the shock of that much lost life, though my feelings gave way to calm. In the end, I felt no more or less peace than before.
Scattered across the list of those who ascended up the podium, many more people would come to cull the audience. War criminals who sullied the image of the cross. Rapists who covered up their heinous acts with apparent piety. Pedophiles who had abused their roles in the church. Nazis and communists alike. Some of the worst leaders mankind had to offer, and outlaw-thugs that the history books discarded as heartless. I thought that the thinned crowd would make the shouts around me fainter, but yet they intensified with each villain. My ears could barely handle the pressure, but my peace provided me with strength.
When the last of the people descended from the platform, I recovered my composure. I looked around me. How few in number were those who remained! I shared ranks with the timid, the downtrodden, and the truly oblivious. Those who cared little for the world and those who forgave freely stood beside me. I had no quarrels with these men and women; how could I? To think that I would be spending eternity with the likes of these, that I would spend millennia understanding their characters! I once dreaded the thought of living forever, but the excitement overwhelmed me! The peace within me had blossomed into joy, and I basked myself in the light of God.
“For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will forgive you. And if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”