You know I was putting pictures to my old poem “Listen” when I came to the part where I mentioned Hell. I googled some pictures about it and was disturbed to see what’s out there. I couldn’t bring myself to post a picture but I wanted to discuss the nonchalance that’s out there about Hell. Either people don’t believe in it as it’s expressed, don’t believe in it at all or believe so fervently about it they’re scared for the eternal destiny of everyone they meet. And then there are those who use Hell as a scare tactic to prepare people for a life dedicated to Christ.
Here’s what I’ve realized we say when we throw Hell mindlessly into conversation: “God loves you. He died for you. So you need to either believe that to be true or experience an eternity of torture for your stubbornness against faith, and no matter how you cry at this point, God won’t listen.”
In my experience, God is far more merciful, patient and kind than that. Though He is a warrior, just and strong, He came as a human. And when He came as a human, He chose to come as the meekest, most humble kind of human there is. An infant, born apparently out-of-wedlock to teenage parents in a place that smelled like animal scat. Not what religious leaders were expecting in his day. That tells me that there has to be more to this Hell thing (or possibly even less) than we think.
When you step back, take a look at the pictures out there on Hell, recognize that people are saying it’s for eternity and that God ignores those in Hell (but does not ever ignore anyone on earth.) That’s a change in character that frankly, is borderline psychotic. And a contrast from what on all other counts a Christian ought to be.
I believe in Hell on Earth. But not eternal torture for those who did not accept Christ. I believe Hell is the evil in the world and people have lived through it and come out, because that’s the nature of God. He redeems. He saves. And He restores lives. If we as Christians were less pre-occupied with how to help our churches look nicer and therefore more inviting, we would be able to have an impact against Hell on Earth. We could be feeding the starving, clothing the naked, visiting those in prison. (All things Jesus, the Son of God and God Himself, commissioned His disciples to do.) We could be changing the world.
I encourage you to take a look at Hell and what we’re saying to the world when we hold so tightly to this disturbing and frankly, destructive doctrine. Perfect love casts out fear. Fear should not propel our faith or push us to share that faith with others. The only thing fear should do is alert us to a need for kindness, patience and perfect love. The only thing fear should do is alert us that it needs to be cast out.
I wish I could better underscore and encapsulate the depth of sorrow in my heart that this is an accepted and shared aspect of Christian faith. One to which I at one time heartily subscribed. There’s nothing obvious or inevitable about it. We don’t get to decide who goes to Hell. We don’t get to decide who goes to Heaven. We don’t even get to decide that either absolutely unequivocally exists.
The notion that God decides this troubles me as well. Since he formed every part of our being, including the propensity for belief and for sin, He, ultimately would be the reason for each person’s existence and for each person’s prospective set eternity. I’m sure many comments will be concerned for doctrine, but listen to what we’re saying. We’re going around spreading “Good news” that God’s love is unconditional, but preach that it is contingent upon a specific belief. If that belief is not held, then… well… you’ll be tortured for all eternity. Sorry to ruin your day, but, hey, that’s just how it is.
Is it just me or did that escalate rather quickly? Might we consider that we could be interpreting things wrong? Is it at all conceivable that since every other sect can interpret the Bible incorrectly, then we might be able to as well?
Since the religious leaders of Jesus’ day were wrong about His first arrival, might we be wrong about His second? And about judgment? And about many things? And isn’t that really okay? If we’re wrong and don’t have the right answers for these questions? What if we just chose to listen and to be there, rather than being so scared to be wrong.
I do mean for this to be a discussion so feel free to comment below. 🙂