Judging by the billboards along our south Texas highways it seems that Christians are focused on one thing and it isn’t the love of God or the hope of new life. Christians it seems are afraid of hell and want everyone else to be afraid too. And I get it, I mean I don’t want a lifetime of torture either. But a Christianity that prioritizes hell misses the point. Yes we are saved from darkness and death but more importantly we are saved into light and life. Hell, whatever it may look like, isn’t something outside of God’s reach, all of creation is from God and exists in God. Hell and all its dark power is still derived from God and God is good and so is His creation.
Over and over we encounter stories where God’s justice looks more like what we would call mercy. Adam and Eve disobeyed and ate the apple so God clothed them and lead them out of the garden so they wouldn’t remain in sin for eternity. The prodigal son who squandered his father’s fortune on selfish living is received home with celebration and open arms. Nicodemus who spent his life stealing and cheating is chosen by Jesus to be His host and Nicodemus’ heart is changed. God’s judgement is frightening but not something for us to fear.
Right now we are reading C.S Lewis’, The Problem of Pain, in our reading group. In this chapter Lewis takes on the topic of hell and explains how though the idea is brutal it is not contradictory to an idea of a good God. Even more he gets at the idea that when we talk about salvation as Christians we are talking not so much about a rescue from God’s wrath, as if God were our enemy, but of a liberation from our own ambition which leads to self destruction.
Our imaginary egoist has tried to turn everything he meets into a province or appendage of the self. The taste for the other, that is, the very capacity for enjoying good, is quenched in him except in so far as his body still draws him into some rudimentary contact with an outer world. Death removes this last contact. He has his wish-to lie wholly in the self and to make the best of what he finds there. And what he finds there is Hell.
– C.S Lewis, The Problem of Pain
Put even more elegantly by Bishop Kalomiros in River of Fire,
God’s judgement is nothing else than our coming into contact with truth and light. …Our hearts will be opened by the penetrating light of God, and what is in these hearts will be revealed. If in those hearts there is love for God, those hearts will rejoice seeing God’s light. If, on the contrary, there is hatred for God in those hearts, these men will suffer by receiving on their opened hearts this penetrating light of truth which they detested all their life.
This post is part of our Reading Group series. Right now we are reading The Problem of Pain by C.S. Lewis. We would love for you to join us.
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