The fear of death is premised largely on one idea; what comes next. What happens after we die? We are afraid to die because we are afraid of the unknown reality or unreality beyond death. For many people this takes the form of black and white, either/or debate. Will I go to heaven or will I go to hell? At this time of year, the emphasis seems to be on hell (though in reality it never does stray far “the bad place”). Demons and ghouls emerge from the shadows to frighten our moral souls. Those opposed to the activities of persons who practiced witchcraft in the 1500’s and prevent their children from dressing in a witches outfit for couple of hours one night a year also fear the creeping and eternal influence of evil beyond death. Are such actions damnable? Could we be held eternally liable? Am I going to Hell?
If you’re afraid to die and go to Hell, it would seem that the people who held the information to keep you out of Hell and safe in Jesus’ loving arms would hold immense power. Those people with the access and understanding to talk about such things would have a vested interest in wanting to keep the idea of death, fear, and Hell burning forever. If people weren’t motivated by a fear of death, or even going to Hell, what would they do?
I think you would hear constant conversations about love. The words wrath and condemnation would never enter into the picture. The old clichés would fall by the wayside and people would be constantly looking up to God instead of lugging the guilt and fear they carry now; the guilt and fear we need them to carry because fear is part and parcel keeping people terrified of their need for God. We don’t want people terrified. We want people longing for a living, normal, healthy relationship with Jesus Christ.
A faith without a fear of death or Hell would be grounded in benevolence for everyone. We would possess such an unbounded love for people our most important message would be that God’s love is not limited by our own mortality.
Christianity without a fear of death and Hell would have total trust in God to handle the geography, furniture, and thermostat in eternity. We don’t have that kind of trust right now. We don’t trust God enough but we do trust our own fear to know more about life after death and God’s business than God does. We are comfortable with our fears. We love our fears. We know them. It doesn’t have to be this way.
This is the kind of Christianity we need to begin to discuss. It’s the kind of Christianity in which I believe. It’s what my reading of scripture reveals about who Jesus is and how God works.
Something happened on the cross to break the back of the man-made, anthropomorphic idea of Hell, evil, and damnation we so desperately cling to in order to understand our world. Jesus can be understood without the seeds of fiction planted by John Milton or Dante Aligheri. He can be clearly presented to humanity without vague Biblical references to burning piles of trash or misconstrued parables.
This back breaking of trash heaps, the underworld, and the medieval images of Hell that still dominate our world applied to everyone, without preconditions. It happened. It’s done.
We live with the freedom God has given us now. Eternity is a question God has solved and will reveal in due course.
My questions is this: why would we second guess what Jesus did on the cross? Wasn’t his death enough to save absolutely everyone, once and for all?