9.21.2012

Hell of a Question

Having kids means answering tough questions.  The latest is Jada inquiring about her friends who are Jewish or Muslim or atheist: "Will my friend go to hell?"  There are two knee-jerk responses:

(in a soft, sweet voice) "Of course not, sweetie, that would be a hateful thing to believe."

(in a Southern twang) "Of course, so long as they don't believe in Jee-sus."


I don't like either response.  And I never liked the term "go to hell."  So I decided to start my answer there, which is to say that the Christian narrative says that all people - devout Christians, people of other religions, souls all around the world - live in active rebellion to our Creator, whose supreme authority, perfect righteousness, and absolute goodness render all paths "hell" that aren't humble submission to Him.

In other words, we're not at a fork in the road, with heaven on the left and hell on the right.  Rather, by our disobedience, we're well into hell, with no hope on our own for making ourselves right again.  It is only by God's unwarranted and unmerited favor that there is a way back at all. Or, to say it another way (with thanks to my former pastor for describing it thus), it's not about are we good or bad, for, because of our sin, we are dead, and the dead don't have much hope.

A worldview that says all religions are fine may make for a good bumper sticker and seem to offer the prospect of universal harmony, but it is not necessarily true and it is not necessarily satisfactory for the big questions of our soul.  Sadly, Christians, whose very salvation narrative ought to engender profound humility and reverence, seem to be worst among all religious folks in terms of blind, arrogant, and insensitive portrayals of God and salvation.We're not doing God any favors in His broadcasting of good news by the way we often act and think. 

Yes, we have a distinct, mutually exclusive answer to the question of our eternal destinations and of what we can do to influence them.  We ought to hold fast to and speak forth on that answer, with boldness and yet with the delicacy, humility, and gratitude that those beliefs warrant. 

Hell is no joke.  It is real.  And it matters what we believe and how we believe it.  I realize this is weighty stuff for a seven-year-old.  I gave her an age-appropriate response.  But she asked a tough and meaty question, and I think she wanted a tough and meaty answer. 




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