how can a loving God send a person to Hell?

I was driving to work Friday morning and I passed three guys in black pants, dress shirts, and black ties. They were standing on the median in the middle of the road. Two were holding signs. The third, the star of the group, was screaming into a megaphone. The signs said things like “The party’s over…and it ends in Hell!” And the rock star was screaming a list of ways that God was going to come down from Heaven and spank you for being bad. They were a caricature of themselves.

My first impulse was to scream something out the window…or worse. Of course I know that is not the right thing to do. Besides, people who get angry at someone else’s opinion typically do so because they aren’t sure of what they believe. And I realized that nothing would be accomplished by feeding into their anger with more anger. So, instead I jotted down their website as I sat at the light, and then checked it out as soon as I could.

What I saw when I got there made me sick. There was a side banner that said, “WWJD: Who Will Jesus Destroy.” Another gem said, “The God of the Bible kills people…will He have to kill you?” They had another section that listed people who their “god” would destroy. It included the obvious; homosexuals (referred to in their site as “sodomites” as well as a list of other names I don’t care to repeat), drunkards, whore mongers, and blasphemers. One surprised me. They also listed the “unmerciful.” An odd inclusion for a group that stands on street corners screaming to anyone who will listen about the reasons they are bound for hell.

Of course, this begs the question for my own heart. Am I just being unmerciful to the unmerciful? And the answer is, yes. I hate to admit that, but it is true. Does this mean I agree with what these guys do? Of course not. But I am not the Holy Spirit. I cannot convict them of the fact that they are trying to be the Holy Spirit to the rest of the world. I can only try to listen to the urging of the Holy Spirit in my own heart to be kind and forgiving, even to those who are unkind and unforgiving.

All that aside, we still haven’t addressed the question at hand. Though I disagree with standing on the street corner, spewing out hatred toward all the people a person might wish would burn in hell (which is what these guys were doing. “Your sin is worthy of God’s ultimate wrath. I am forgiven because I work hard, do good, and have somehow earned God’s favor.”), I still have to come to terms with the fact that, as C.S. Lewis says, “I have never met a mortal.” We will all spend our eternity in communion or separation from God.

So, how can a God who loves us send us to Hell? So many people say, “He doesn’t send us there, we choose to go by not choosing Him.” Which is true, but at the same time, not a very satisfying answer. It puts God on the level with the Christopher Titus-esque jerk of a dad. The one who sees the child heading for the electric outlet and says, “Go ahead…yeah, go on…well, I guess you won’t do that again.” It has to go deeper than that. And luckily…it does.

What it comes down to is this: We’ve all earned Hell. God cannot be in the presence of sin. It is against His nature. It is not like kryptonite to Superman. It is not like God doesn’t enjoy it, or it takes away His strength or something. It is like a shadow exposed to light. They cannot exist together. It is totally against the nature of either to be together. If we continue on as the shadow, then we cannot exist in the light. We either accept the gift offered by Jesus on the cross to transfigure us into light, or we remain a shadow that cannot exist in the presence of the Light.

God loves us so much that He came Himself in the form of a human who lived a perfect life in our place. Something about accepting that gift negates our shadow nature. Even though we don’t suddenly become perfect, we become justified. To God, this is the same thing. At that point, the Holy Spirit begins to work on us to gradually transform us into a Heavenly creature. We are given a choice to remain a shadow, or to undergo the sometimes painful transformation into light. But if we chose to “love darkness rather than light” then we have chosen to reject being in the presence of the ultimate Light. For a shadow to remain a shadow in the presence of light, there has to be something in between the two, something that will cast the shadow. That separation from God is Hell.

Hell is not God’s torture of us for rejecting Him. It is what happens when a being of pure light by His nature destroys the shadows. We are not being punished, as our street preaching friends would say, for a list of things that we do. If we are being sent to Hell for doing anything off of some list of damning sins, then it follows that we can earn our own salvation by merely abstaining from doing the things on that list. It would be pretty simple to get into Heaven if all I have to do is to not drink, not be gay, not fornicate, and not condone abortion. Of course, these issues are important, and should be dealt with in light of the Scriptures. But our eternity in Heaven or Hell hinges on our acceptance or rejection of God’s gift. Do we allow God to transform our shadow into light, or do we remain a shadow cast by the partition that separates us from God? God does not want us to be destroyed. God does not want us to be separated. He came to us in the form of His Son so that we could be transformed by His touch into beings who are capable of standing in His Light.


About Andrew

The Universe is Round. View all posts by Andrew

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