God can be so troubling. I dig that Jesus loved those on the fringes of acceptability, but the part about sending unbelievers to Hell, offends my sensibilities.
Hell has been used as motivation to “get people saved.” Only, we can’t get anyone “saved.” That’s between the person and God, and it is a uniquely individual process for each of us. Besides, it seems like blackmail to tell someone, “You had better confess Jesus, or you’re going to Hell.” There has to be a better reason to get “saved” than avoiding punishment.
Hell has been used as the threat of punishment. Yet, it doesn’t sound right for someone to say, “If you don’t enter into a relationship with me, I will banish you to eternal punishment.”
Hell has been explained as a choice. “God doesn’t send anyone to Hell, but by rejecting Jesus, a person has chosen Hell themselves.” This makes a little more sense to me. God doesn’t force himself on anyone. If you want to try to live life apart from Him, that can be arranged, in an eternal and irrevocable way that is worse than we can imagine.
Hell has been explained as ultimate justice where evil doers finally get what they deserve. There is justice in the universe after all. Only, I wonder what makes their evil deserving of Hell, while mine is overlooked in the name of grace. Can justice and grace ever be reconciled?
Making Up Short Cuts
We Christians have been dimwitted by being so obsessed with trying to figure out who is “in” and who is “out.” Unfortunately, that kind of convenient dichotomy always leads to pride and discrimination.
We have invented short cuts. Do this, say this, learn this, do it in your heart, right now, go through this rite of initiation. We want to count you as one of us. Where in all of that is there room for unique working of the Holy Spirit is a person’s life?
Mashing Up Justice and Grace
If there is no justice, there is no Hell. If there is no grace, there is no Heaven. If there is both justice and grace, if God is both just and gracious, there are both. If there is neither, grace and justice are incomplete, God is two-dimensional, and so are we. Even if that were the case, it would still be important to live like Jesus. It would still matter, but so much would be incomplete and unfulfilled.
I want to be a Universalist, but I can’t find a solid basis for it. I want to abolish Hell, but it’s not my call.
I believe, Hell is not a club to instill fear in the unbelieving, who probably don’t believe in Hell anyway. It’s not some sort of cosmic, religious leverage. Hell and Heaven are the logical conclusion to what we truly believe about Jesus. They are the outworking of a just and loving God.
The details of how all of that gets sorted out, is way above my pay grade.
This post is part of the May synchroblog, “What the Hell.”
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