They had traveled for miles early in the morning, in wet weather, just to visit me. Everything had gone as planned so far … until … until they faced an ugly evil villain who stands tall and proud at the entrance of the visitor processing center. He is known by many names, but he is best known as Metal Detector.
To visit me – or any other inmate – one must go through a series of security procedures. Some are simple, others a bit bothersome, yet all necessary.
Walking through the metal detector insures no large metal objects are smuggled in. Generally there is common sense used when the detector awakens and sounds off his alarms.
It is normal – and expected – for the detector to alert his minions that a small button, rivet, belt buckle, bra under-wire, or jewelry has been detected. With a quick double check the person is cleared and the process continues on.
On December 7, 2013, as my new friends, Ron and Tracy, walked through the tall and proud detector, a small button(*) on Tracy’s pants was detected. Metal Detector’s minions quickly assessed the situation and decided the small button had to be ripped off.
Common sense had been missing that morning for it was clear the small button posed no security threat. Tracy was left no choice but to return home without entering.
I can’t say I wasn’t bothered when I heard about Buttongate. Days later I still found myself wondering why. Why would God allow Buttongate to happen? I wasn’t mad at God, just curious. I was honestly looking for a lesson in it.
Four days later the answer – lesson – was clear. As I stood in line for breakfast, two men in front of me were talking about heaven. It was clear neither was saved, but believed there was a heaven and some sort of God who oversaw the entry into heaven.
Their views were similar. They both agreed that only good people could enter. They also agreed that even a bad person could enter if the person balanced the bad with good.
“But how much good is good enough?” one asked the other.
The question was left hanging because we had reached the tray window. One at a time we reached into the window and pulled out a delicious mystery breakfast. As we sat down to eat, the conversation continued.
“It’s not the amount of good,” one answered as if they had never stopped. “It’s that you must have good intentions to do good that will count.”
I had not yet been invited into the conversation, so I quietly listened as I ate my breakfast slop. I almost choked on a piece of meat (well, it looked like meat) when one asked the other a very important question.
“What if we change our ways and live with the best intentions to do good, but when we die and reach heaven’s gates we get rejected for not doing enough?”
As I tried to cough the piece of mystery meat out of my throat, the two guys looked at me for an answer. They didn’t say a word, I just knew they wanted me to give them my two cents. So I did.
“Well, let me tell you about my friend Tracy and Buttongate …” I recounted the story and reached the end as we were being dismissed from our table. As we walked back to our cells, I started to connect the story to biblical truths.
“You see, that one button is like a single tiny sin in our lives. Sins are those bad things you were talking about. Heaven will never take us in unless we are completely without sin. It’s not just about how good we are or how good our intentions are, it’s about entering the One and Only Door that will allow you in. If you use this Door, you will walk right in.”
“Door!?” They both asked.
“Yeah, the only Door into heaven that will not keep you out.”
“Where is this Door?”
“It’s not where, it’s Who.” I had them hooked. But I didn’t have the time to explain further. We had reached our cells and I now had to run off to work. I promised to explain further when I got back.
Later that same day, I had the blessing of explaining the doors a bit better to them. Our talk was about an hour long and I can’t remember all I said or all the questions they had. But Buttongate was firmly imprinted on their minds because one of the men wrapped up most of our conversation by comparing it with all that he had learned.
“So, Tracy, with all her good intentions to visit you, could not because of her sin – I mean, her button. And she didn’t have a new, buttonless outfit to change into, so she was not allowed in.”
“Yeah.” I confirmed his line of thinking.
“So unless I receive Jesus as my personal Lord and Savior, I will not enter heaven. Jesus, by His death on the cross, paid for all my sins.”
“Yeah.” Again, I agreed with him.
“And,” the second added his thoughts, “By receiving Jesus, we are clothed by His goodness and we are made clean.”
“Yup.” They were pretty good at connecting the dots.
“And this same Jesus is the door we will enter through to get into heaven, no questions asked,” he added.
I didn’t want to get too theological with them, so I simply agreed and was fine with their simple understanding of all that I had shared with them. Buttongate was just enough of an illustration to help them understand. To add any more fancy Christianese would only confuse them. There would be more time to go deeper with them on another day. But there was no time to waste when it came to their salvation.
I asked them if they wanted to seal their assurance into heaven. They agreed. Both men now have a place waiting for them in heaven.
For now, as they wait for that day, they spend their days learning more about the Door Himself by reading the Bible and attending studies. It’s rare I run into these two men anymore; it was fate that Buttongate would take place so that I could use the story to help these two men understand that no sin will be allowed into heaven.
Praise be to God that He gave us His One and Only Son, the Lamb of God, who took the sins of the world and nailed them to the cross. And by receiving Him into our hearts, we will enter heaven button-less (I mean, sinless) for we will be clothed in Christ Himself. Amen.
… Because of His blood, I’m button-less myself …