If you love God, God will reward you for that love by blessing you with an eternity filled with joyous bliss.
If you do not pledge to God your loyalty and fealty, God will punish you by cursing you with an eternity filled with horrendous physical torture.
Die a Christian? Up you go to heaven!
Die a non-Christian? Try to make sure that before it closes shut someone tosses a bag of marshmallows into your coffin. (And then—what with where you’re going—prepare to never find a stick.)
And don’t think it will matter why you died a non-Christian, either. Because it won’t. Maybe you were born and raised a Muslim, Jew, Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Native American, Bahaist. Maybe you were raised by dingoes in the aboriginal wilds. Maybe you decided there is no God, and became an atheist. Maybe you decided you just couldn’t decide, and became an agnostic. Maybe you just didn’t care all that much, and figured you’d know soon enough anyway so why pick a lane you don’t have to?
Yeah, none of that will matter. All that matters is that if you die anything but a Christian, then no heaven for you!
That’s what being a Christian boils down to: Be one—or else!
And that, friends and fellow earthlings, is the Christianity in which so many believe.
And that is the Christianity that’s responsible for so many people today leaving church—and for so many others refusing to ever go near a church in the first place.
And that’s the Christianity that has just got to go.
“Love me, because I love you. And if you don’t love me, I’ll torture you forever.” What would that be, from the Stalker line of Hallmark cards? What kind of sickness is that? And what kind of unhealthy relationship must it produce?
Who wants to be in a relationship because they’re terrified not to be in that relationship?
The model of Christianity upon which that kind of relationship is predicated needs to go the way of the dodo bird, slavery, and blood-letting. God is still talking—and he’s telling an awful lot of us to grow up already, and stop treating him like some big mean Daddy in the sky who’ll whip us all real hard forever if we’re not good little boys and girls. That’s not who God is. That’s not how God operates. Those aren’t God’s values.
That kind of Christianity belongs to a mentality that feeds on the fears and resentments of men, not the love and acceptance of God.
That kind of Christianity is mad about naming who exactly is and isn’t with it, and why.
That kind of Christianity needs enemies to give it focus and purpose—and the more enemies it has, the happier it is.
That kind of Christianity swaggers, preens, points, scowls, judges, and with its confident, braying bravado opportunistically and purposefully strikes fear into the hearts of perfectly decent people who want nothing more than to know that, in some real and lasting way, their human frailties are forgiven.
That kind of Christianity revels in pointing an accusatory finger with what it dares declare the hand of God.
Do you know that in the Bible Jesus never says a word about the ultimate fate of anyone who dies a non-Christian? Not once does it come up. We have no idea who does and doesn’t get into heaven. None.
Apparently Jesus didn’t think that was anything we should be worried about. Apparently he didn’t think that what happens to anyone in the afterlife is any of our business.
He sure was clear about how we should live in this life, though, wasn’t he? No waffling there, was there?
One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:28-31)
There. That’s our mission.
That’s who God is.
That’s who God wants us to be.
We’re supposed to love God, and then—filled with God’s returned love for us—love our neighbors.
Heaven help the person who endeavors to turn that clear directive into a prescription for who does and doesn’t get sentenced to hell.
Along these lines I also once made this: