I’m always trying to find a way to make talking about hell easier (hence the catchy blog title : ) But talking about hell is a lot like talking about sex. Immature married couples find it hard to share how they really feel with their spouse – when they’re unsatisfied or when things simply aren’t working in the bedroom. Immature people think everything should automatically work if you married the right person. But those of us who regularly enjoy “you-know-what” have gotten there because we learned how to press through the awkwardness.
Back when I used to do pre-marriage counseling, I loved sharing embarrassing stories – about how, early on in my marriage, my wife and I would get insulted about the smallest things when it came to the topic of sexual satisfaction. But, we pushed through “Pillow-talk 101;” and, as a result, we can move onto collegiate level research : ) But, the same is true with the doctrines of hell. People get so freaky about the subject that their brains tend to turn off when they deal with the facts.
For example, a young lady once told me: “God couldn’t be loving if he sends people to hell.” I stopped her and reminded her of some of the wicked things people have done over the years… Fathers who rape their nine year old girls… Militia groups who strap bombs to six year old kids to blow up their adversaries. I started talking about the thousands who get martyred every week over the silliest things. And then I asked: “How could God be loving if he isn’t just?” And then I told her: “Imagine how many people would then accuse God as being unfair. It almost sounds like a catch-22 for God.”
Or, think about it this way: “Boundary setting” is the very foundation of parental love: “I LOVE you, which is why I won’t let you play in the busy highway!” Yet, when God (Absolute Love) lays down the doctrines of Hell (Absolute Boundaries) we suddenly get all bent out of shape: “Who are you to tell me where I can play?” Even more, what makes us think we’re even competent enough to judge God? A good judgment requires good information. And, do we really know the extent of damage done to the universe when sin entered the world? Are we really qualified to judge the fairness of God?
So I finally asked the young lady: “If God forced everyone into heaven – against their will – would that suddenly make God ‘loving?'” To me, i’d have a hard time calling this God “loving.” After all, we have a word in our culture for “forced love.” It’s called Rape.
You see: Some people feel that the “Rapist God” or “Unjust God” concepts suddenly satisfies their sense of love and justice. And because they haven’t really thought through the logical implications of their opinions, they tend to ignore a good number of scriptures – the truths that don’t square with their ill-thought notions of “fairness.”
In the end, we’ve got to start with Scriptures – even the ones that disturb us. Once we get past our insecurities, I believe, a deeper more profound picture will emerge: a God of love… who loves us so deeply that he creates boundaries… that he doesn’t force people into heaven… that he still upholds justice, even if it requires him to sacrifice his only Son.
“But what about those who didn’t get a chance to hear the Gospel?” Will God just send someone to hell because they happened to be born in a part of the world where the Gospel wasn’t popular? Well, thankfully, the Bible gives us a great example of this in Acts chapter 10. (And I’ll be addressing this in the upcoming messages of our “Stumped” series [here]. Also, if you missed the first message on this topic [Stumped Part 5], I posed the question: What if hell is locked from the inside? Indeed, I personally believe that, if people were given the choice to accept Christ after death they STILL wouldn’t choose him. (Again, watch the video if that intrigues you).
Last but not least… I promised that my listeners could download a handout full of Bible verses on hell. For those who are new to the “doctrines of reprobation,” I’ve included a pdf that covers the basic verses which inform our study, linked here: HellNotes2013. Also, many people have asked me what I think about Rob Bell’s Love Wins (a NY Times best seller dealing with Hell). And if you’re curious, I wrote a ten page assessment linked here: Hell Discussion Download- Rob Bell
But here’s the deal: Don’t ignore tough conversations about hell [or sex for that matter : ) After all, God has an startling hot plan (for both). But we will never uncover that plan if we’re insecure and afraid to talk about it.