I’ve had continuous cell phone service with the same carrier since the late ‘90’s. I’m probably one of their longest-standing patrons. At the insurance company I worked for, we valued people who had been with the company for a long time. I’m still with that insurance company and when I call, the representative usually mentions we’ve been with them for more than twenty years.
In a recent Consumer Report magazine, an interesting article about cell phones said customer service varies between carriers, but the signal itself is very close across the board which negates the main reason I went with my current carrier back when coverage was not a given. The advice was to look at deals offered by carriers and once your contract is up to negotiate with your existing carrier. We found out that changing carriers could drop our bill by almost 40%! Our two-year contract expired in September so I walked into my current carrier’s store to find a better deal and was told that what we are paying is their best rate. They didn’t seem concerned that we’ve been customers for twenty years.
I’m wondering what God thinks about longevity. We are told in Scripture that there is rejoicing in heaven when someone who has left the faith returns. But what about people who have been believers since birth? An interesting note about Islam – a new believer is held in higher regard than one who was born into the faith. The rationale is that the new believer has seen other ways and has decided to follow the five pillars unlike one who was born into it and knows nothing different.
Performing a baptism is one of the best things about being a priest. Of all baptisms, there is something extra special about baptizing an adult. I even had the privilege of performing a baptism for someone lying on a hospice bed. That was extra, extra special. If I listened closely, I could actually hear the celebration in heaven. Does Jesus welcome the newly-baptized 85 year old differently from the one who was baptized as a baby? Or, does God prioritize prayers based on how long someone has been a believer? Probably not. Faith is not a commodity that you can switch for another like gasoline, copper, lumber, or even cell phone carriers.
There are benefits of having longevity with Christ – living with the knowledge that God loves you, forgives you, and gives the gift of grace and peace. There are benefits in belonging for a lifetime to a church, too. But, when it comes to God, it’s just like the parable that Jesus told about the workers hired in the morning and those hired in the late afternoon. They all get paid the same amount regardless of how long they worked. It’s not like the dinner buffet at a casino that lets the high rollers skip the line. So, if you are counting on taking cuts in the line at Heaven’s gate because of membership at Saint John’s, I rather doubt that will occur; and I can even see a rationale for letting that newly baptized 85 year old in line ahead of us.
Once our hearts turn to Jesus, we are received in the same manner. The joy from heaven and the peace from God is enough for each believer. Maybe that is where “the first shall be last and the last shall be first” comes in — those of us who are cradle Christians will be so overjoyed to see those who have come to Christ later on in their lives it won’t much matter about the order of things.