Tuesday, August 11, 2009

An Invitation to the Palace: A Parable

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away there was a man named Joshua who, using the fantastic technology of that time and place, created a planet. Many books were written about him, but he had retreated into his own beautiful palace and had not been seen in person in many years.

One day Matt and Paul, ardent followers of the books on Joshua, went out into their city in search of people to bring to the palace. The first house they stopped at was that of a young man named Tom.

"How can I help you?" asked Tom.

Matt spoke first. "We're here to teach people about the things that Joshua has done and invite them to live in his palace with him."

"Wow! That sounds too good to be true. Please, come in." Tom ushered his guests into his own humble house, then sat to listen to what they had to say.

"Many, many years ago, Joshua laid down laws that everyone had to abide by, but if you accept him as the creator of our world and humbly ask for his forgiveness, you won't be punished for breaking these laws," Paul explained.

"That's very generous of him," Tom said, quite awed. "And what's the punishment for breaking these laws?"

"Death," said Matt.

That gave Tom pause, as he considered what laws he might have broken in his life. "And what might these laws be?"

"He is the creator of our planet," Paul said.

Well, that sounds more like a statement than a law, but it was reasonable, Tom decided. He agreed with it immediately.

"You should have no other creators before him," Matt went on. "Be good to your parents. Don't kill. Don't cheat on your spouse. Don't steal. Don't lie. Don't covet another man's wife or his property."

"That all sounds great. Those are laws that I'd like to follow," Tom said. "Though I have lied, and have wanted things that belonged to other people, and I haven't always been good to my parents. But, if Joshua is such a generous man, I should ask for forgiveness for those things right now and strive to be more like him."

Paul piped up. "Oh, and also, death to all redheads."

Tom was himself a redhead and looked horrified. "Excuse me?"

"Well, that isn't actually something Joshua ever said. But people who've spoken to Joshua said that he probably wanted to kill redheads and just never got around to saying so," Matt explained.

"But...but I was born this way!" Tom sputtered. "I can't help it."

"You could dye your hair," Matt pointed out.

"That doesn't change the fact that my hair is naturally red. It just covers it up!"

"No one's hair is naturally red," Paul said. "The first people on Joshua's planet were both brunettes. That was his plan to start with. So everyone is born from normal, brown-haired people. Nobody could have been born with redhair."

Tom scratched his head, confused by this logic. "That isn't how genetics works. There are recessive genes and all sorts of factors wrapped up in who we are. Besides, if I dyed my hair and got married, I'd be a redhead having children."

"No, you'd have brown-hair," Paul insisted.

"But it would be red under the dye!"

"But hair can't naturally be red."

Tom stared at Paul for a long, long moment, wondering if perhaps he was insane. "Alright. Well. Going to a palace is better than being killed, so I suppose I could dye my hair brown. What happens at the palace?"

"Joshua is able to make anyone in his palace live forever, and you'll stay there for eternity in perfect peace," Matt said, his eyes shining.

"Immortality! That's amazing. But what about the good people who don't break the law, but never heard about this invitation?" Tom asked.

"They'll be killed," said Paul.

"What?" demanded Tom. "Why? They didn't break any laws!"

"The only way to not be killed is to do as Joshua says. He says you have to ask him for forgiveness," Matt said.

"But that's horrible! I thought this Joshua was a generous person."

Paul nodded eagerly. "He is, he is! It used to be that everyone was killed. Now he's giving out this invitation. Isn't that wonderful?"

"But...isn't he the one who condemned people to death?" Tom asked.

"Of course," said Matt.

"He has mercifully offered us this escape, though," added Paul.

Tom thought for a long moment, trying to make sense of this. "But...why not just stop killing people, if he wanted to be merciful?"

"He couldn't do that. He had to punish the people who broke his laws," Matt said.

"And redheads," added Paul.

"But you said that if you ask for his forgiveness you're not being punished, no matter what laws you broke," cried Tom.

"I know. Isn't he wonderful?" asked Matt rhetorically.

"And you said that even if you didn't break any of those laws, Joshua would still kill you."

"That's right," agreed Paul.

"Why is he doing all of this?" demanded Tom, quite upset now.

Matt answered. "Because he loves this planet and all of the people on it so much, he wants to invite them all into his palace. Even the worst murderer will be brought in, if he asks for forgiveness. Otherwise everyone deserves to die."

"Killing people isn't a sign of love," Tom said flatly.

"He asks such a small thing of you, Tom. All he wants is that you stop breaking the law and ask for his forgiveness. Even if you break the law again, you can just ask for his forgiveness again. It's a lifelong get out of jail free card. Isn't that wonderful?" Matt asked.

"And he wants you to dye your hair," added Paul.

"If he is truly such a great man and loves us, I can't believe the hate and violence you people are preaching," Tom told them, getting up to usher them out of his house.

Once the door had been shut behind them, Matt shook his head, sighing sadly. "I hate to see someone rejecting Joshua's love like that."

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