Our great-grandfathers and great-grandmothers used to talk much about where heaven was. And some thought it was up above the clouds, and others thought it would be here on earth, after all the wickedness and selfishness were done away. Every one, however, used to think that the New Jerusalem, with its pearly gates and golden streets, was a real place like the cities of to-day.
But we think of heaven more as the feeling in our hearts when we are happy from being with our friends, or when we have done right and unselfish things. We know what it is, then, to have heaven on earth. And when we have heaven on earth, we know pretty nearly what the real heaven is like.
Let me show you what I mean. Not long ago a speaker in a rescue mission asked the children if they could tell him where heaven was. Immediately a boy from the poorest section of the city sprang up, raised his hand and cried shrilly: “I know; I know.” “Well, my boy, where is heaven?” the astonished leader asked. “Back in our street since mother got acquainted with Jesus,” was the answer.
That boy was on the right track. Whenever Christ comes into the heart there comes with Him love and thoughtfulness of others. And when we do kind things for others, we find happiness for ourselves, and that is heaven. Christ says, “If any man hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to him and sup with him and he with me.” That means, when we do things that we believe Christ would like to have us do, then He comes in to sup with us. And when we feel Christ as our Companion, then it is heaven.
We may go to a beautiful place called heaven when we die, but it will be Christ who will make the place full of joy and gladness. And if we are to see Him in that land and enjoy that heaven, we must first make a heaven here on earth for ourselves and others by trying to please Him and to be like Him every day.
Saint Paul, in writing to the Christians of his day, urges them to be “good soldiers of the Lord Jesus Christ.” If every Christian is a soldier, then the Church ought to be called “the Christian Army.” And this makes plainer to us what it means to join the Church.
Armies, as you know, are divided into regiments, and regiments into companies. Every soldier in the army belongs to a certain company. If a man said that he wanted to belong to the United States Army, but that he did not want to join any particular regiment or company, but that he intended to be a soldier “in general,” people would laugh at him. He would be like a man who took his gun and went out all alone to fight against Spain when we were at war with her. Or it would be as if a man in a city should say that he wanted to fight fire, but instead of joining a fire company, he would snatch up his pail and run alone to put out the fire every time there was an alarm.