Leslie and I just finished reading the final book in the Narnia series, The Last Battle. Lewis' vision of what heaven would be like is fascinating in so many ways. But I was particularly struck by a character named Emeth. He is a Calormene, not a Narnian. He worships Tash, not Aslan. He is a noble, good man who ends up in the "New Narnia" unexpectedly, as a result, actually, of his desire to see Tash face to face. When he instead comes face to face with Aslan and immediately recognizes him as the One "who is worthy of all honor," he is prepared to accept his deserved fate as a servant of Tash: death.
But Aslan's response to him is pretty amazing. "All the service thou hast done to Tash I account as service done to me . . . I and he [Tash] are of such different kinds that no service which is vile can be done to me, and none which is not vile can be done to him." In other words, because Emeth's heart was seeking to serve a good God, although he was misinformed about who that God was, his service still counts. And he is accepted by the God that he didn't realize he was seeking.
In a "Tough Questions" Sunday School class once, we were talking about the age-old question: if a relationship with Jesus is the only way to heaven, what will happen to people who die without ever hearing of Jesus? Someone in the class had a fascinating theory. He said he believed that everyone, deep in their heart, was aware of their sin, aware of their separation from God, and aware of their need for a Savior. Some people squelch that knowledge within them. But some face it boldly and spend their lives searching for the Savior they know they need -- in whatever form they are capable of understanding him. Even if they never hear of Jesus in their time on earth, when they get to heaven and meet Him, they will know him, because He's the one they've been searching and longing for. Essentially, they knew him all along.
Interesting as well.
I don't know if that's accurate. I don't suppose we'll ever know in this life. But I do know that it would be characteristic of the God I know. We don't have answers to all the mysteries, but we do know some things for certain -- God is holy, God is just, God is omnipotent, God is love. And a God like that, it seems to me, would make a way for a man like Emeth.