I saw this meme today. Why do they persist? Because they rely on untested assumptions and flawed ideas about God and Christianity. Let’s start at the beginning. “The question is not…” Immediately, the writer of the meme has discarded the validity of the question, “why would a loving God send people to Hell?” In their eyes, that’s not the question. Why isn’t that the question? I’ll tell you why. They don’t want to answer it. It’s too hard to consider a God so forgiving and loving that the idea of eternal punishment may be completely foreign to that same God. It’s too difficult to have that discussion. The weight of scripture, particularly Jesus’ and Paul’s words work so heavily against their argument. So instead of engaging in a debate they shut the question down from the very beginning. “The question is not,” they say. It’s the exact opposite, really. It is the question if you’re serious having an about honest debate and looking at scripture beyond the comfort zone created by many who enjoy the idea of God punishing people for something they seem to have mastered.
Why would someone choose hell over a loving God? What are people choosing when they choose hell? Have they been taught what hell is? How do we know what hell is? Dante, John Milton, and other writes taught me a great deal about hell. I’ve learned very little about hell from the Bible. The Bible says next to nothing about hell. I’ve read the Bible more times than I can remember. Jesus says nothing at all the geography of hell. He does make one reference to people ending up there if they don’t feed the hungry or clothe the naked. So using this flawed logic, why would people choose not to clothe the poor, feed the poor, and help the most vulnerable people in society? According to Jesus, that’s a one way ticket to hell. Even that’s a metaphor involving sheep and goats yet we see his point. He seems to value people who help others in a tangible sense. According to this parable, our salvation depends on helping save others (not with tracts, preaching, posting pushy memes, or pressuring them into church) by assisting them with their most immediate physical needs.
Why? Because those people are living in hell, right here, right now! And hell, is hell. We can walk straight into their personal hells, sit with them (in hell), be with them (in hell), and help them move from hell to somewhere better-the kingdom of God. That may be the air conditioned church, buying food at the store, or praying under a tree. Being a disciple is about an ongoing journey from the hells surrounding us back to the kingdom of God. Yes, this question is clear. Why would anyone choose hell when there is a loving God? Because that is what our loving God has called us to do. He has called us to go to hell, with water, love, compassion, hugs, prayer and enough energy to reclaim what hell has taken for the kingdom of God. I do not presume that the boundaries of what the world calls hell are permanent but that the kingdom of God is and will be an eternal reality. I am ready to walk into the hells beyond my door to reclaim the kingdom of God. That is my choice and my calling. If anyone wants to come along. You know where to find me.