As I’ve written about on this blog before (to the consternation of some fellow Christians who fear for my salvation, I’m afraid) I’m not sure I believe in Hell. When reading through the Bible I see a lot of allusions to torment, but the only concrete references to a place of eternal darkness are in reference to angels that have disobeyed, not humans.
But I don’t want to get into another discussion about that. Trust me, I’ve studied the theology, I’m not sure what I believe. What I want to talk about right now is how that fact has absolutely no affect on my own desire to obey God and to convince others of God’s goodness. This is how it works: Jesus himself said not to concern yourself with tomorrow. I feel the same thing extends to the afterlife as well. I trust in God’s love for me, I trust in my love for him, eternity holds no fear for me. And as for others, My fear for their salvation is based not around eternal torment but in their satisfaction with this life.
I am sure of the fact that the greatest joy and satisfaction, the deepest pleasure and the most profound peace is found in sensing God’s love for you. Daily I am surrounded by people who are facing difficult financial times and life crisis of all kinds. They talk about the lack of security they feel. They talk about the fear, the mundaneness of each day fading into the next with no hope of relief. These people don’t need to be spared the hell of eternity- they need to be spared the hell of today. They need to feel God’s love, the love of the Christian brethren. They need to feel the hope that comes from learning to trust God, learning to put their lives in his hands, learning obedience, learning to grow and mature and see their own lives uplift those of others.
I think that Christianity has as a whole sold itself painfully short by making the Salvation message one solely about eternity and a canned sinner’s prayer. Salvation is not only about tomorrow- it’s about today. It’s about saving ourselves from our present circumstances and saving those around us. The Jews of Jesus time weren’t expecting a Messiah to get them into heaven, they were expecting a Messiah to deliver the Israelites out of political oppression. Jesus just had something else in mind- delivering them from the oppression of a religious caste that had turned it’s back on God’s love for his people.
Sometimes I fear that modern Christianity has done much the same. We’ve surrounded ourselves with twelve steps to discipleship and forty days to community and seven rules of prophetic prayer and ten ways to worship God and this and that and the other thing, and somehow in the midst of all of these “simple solutions” for the modern Christian we’ve lost sight of what Christianity was meant to be.
Us, loving each other. Us, delivering each other from oppression. Us, feeling the love of our eternal Father.
Not just for eternity, but for now and always.