‘Oh, hell no!’ That was my first thought when I heard that this week’s sermon was about hell. Hell, the very word conjures up images of fire and brimstone, weeping, tormented souls, and a devil with a pitchfork hellbent (pun intended) on making every second there as unbearable as possible. Could there be a more uncomfortable topic to discuss on? I think not.
But what is it that makes the topic of hell so uncomfortable? Perhaps it’s the thought that someone you love is headed there?
I think for me, it’s the fact that my view of a patient, loving God just doesn’t seem to gel with the fire and fury that hell represents. How can a God who is love (1 John 4: 16) also be the god who allows some of His creation be sent to a place of undiluted suffering (Matthew 13: 41-42)? How can the God who is good to all ever assign anyone to an eternity of agony? Shouldn’t the two natures of love and judgement, repel each other? The truth is that God is as much a God of love as He is the God of judgement. You can’t have one without the other.
Just like as a parent, even though I love my kids unconditionally, there are times when I need to discipline them. What kind of a parent would I be if I let my kids get away with everything without correcting them under the guise that I ‘love’ them? It would make me a bad parent and my kids would end up as spoilt, entitled brats. I’d be raising hell (for others) rather than raising kids! The kind of love that seeks only to appease and not confront when necessary isn’t real love.
Conversely, I would be hell to live with if I was the kind of parent who punished every little mistake my kids made. They would grow up with low self-esteem, fearful, anxious, and insecure. Good parenting involves walking the sometimes-thin line between love and correction. Kids need discipline and boundaries. They also need to know that they will be loved unconditionally when they do fail. Along with the kisses and the cuddles must come the chores and the timeouts. Both are equally important if you want your kids to grow up to be responsible adults with empathy and respect for others.
Have you ever wondered what the world would be like if God was only a God of love and not a God of justice? Evil acts would abound, and men would act with no fear of punishment or consequence whatsoever. It would be hell on earth indeed. On the other hand, if God was only concerned with dispensing judgement, we wouldn’t stand much of a chance either. Every time we make a mistake, we would be nervously looking over our shoulders to see if lightening was on its way down from heaven to strike us.
As you can see, too much of either isn’t good.
If God is truly the God of love, then He must be the God of justice and judgement too. They are both two sides of the same coin. True love seeks out justice. In the words of Martin Luther King, “Justice is really love in calculation. Justice is love correcting that which revolts against love.” Or as Mother Theresa puts it, “Justice without love is not justice. Love without justice is not love.”
The bottom line is that the God of judgement demands that our sins are punished. And since every single one of us has sinned, we were ALL destined to spend eternity in hell attempting to pay for our sins. That is when the God of love stepped in. God’s judgement met God’s love at the cross of Jesus Christ. Jesus became the payment for our sins and we were released from our inevitable destiny of eternal doom.
Where once we had no choice of where we spent eternity because of our sinful human nature, we now do. Choose to take up God’s offer of forgiveness and grace, and divert from the highway to hell or reject his offer and continue on the same downward path. Either way, you will spend eternity with the God you choose to worship.
I sometimes think it would be simpler if God forced us to make the right choice. That way, no one would be without Jesus and everyone would go to heaven. Seems like the perfect solution to all that ails the world. But, that’s not how things work or at least, it’s not the way God wants it to work. True love only exists where true freedom exists. God desires true love from us, so he gives us the freedom to choose. Even if it means that some of us will choose to reject Him.
There’s no skirting around this issue. Heaven and hell are real and where we end up in eternity is entirely up to us. As C.S. Lewis puts it, “There are only two kinds of people - those who say, ‘Thy will be done’ to God or those to whom God in the end says, ‘Thy will be done.’ All that are in hell choose it.”
So, choose wisely. Choose to spend eternity with a God who loves you so much that He took on your punishment and not with the guy with the pitchfork who looks at you and says, ‘Hell if I care.’
Choose to say, ‘Hell no!’ to hell.
Betsy Sony is a stay-at-home mom who has the full-time job of looking after 4 beautiful girls. She came to the United States from India along with her husband Sony about 4 years ago and loves all things Skyline, reading, being outdoors, and experiencing new cultures and cuisines.
If you missed out on this week's sermon, check it out here.