Where was God when my 9-year-old son was drugged and raped? generated a lot of very moving and compelling responses. Reader Karen Miller wrote one I thought I’d take a moment to address:
My previous job exposed me to the most horrible, vile, evil things in the world. My morning meetings consisted of viewing all the photos of fatal accidents and crime scenes from the previous day. The photos of a vicious rape and strangulation of a 17-year-old girl made my blood run cold. No movie, no books, nothing, can prepare you for the horror of a violent rape and murder. I wanted to kill the perpetrator. I really and truly wanted to kill him. As I was driving home a sudden thought flashed into my head: this man, this horrible man, could go to heaven if he asked for forgiveness.
I could not reconcile this. I did not want anything to do with a God that would let this man into heaven. I was a mess, a total mess. I have a preacher friend and sought his counsel. He told me that God alone would be able to determine the man’s sincerity if he truly asked for forgiveness. And my friend told me that yes, if indeed God judged him sincere, the man would go to heaven. I still have a hard time accepting this. I have a hard time accepting that a sin is a sin is a sin. I have a hard time grasping the idea of loving the sinner and hating the sin. I no longer work at this job, as it caused me a lot of emotional turmoil. Some people are able to distant themselves from the victim. I, unfortunately identified with the victims, and brought their sorrow home with me. Sorry this went off topic but after reading John’s original post, this young girl has been on my mind.
Nowhere in the Bible does it say that a murdering rapist who asks for forgiveness is guaranteed by God a place in heaven. The Bible is extremely, dramatically, frustratingly, resolutely, entire-denomination-creatingly unspecific about who gets into heaven, or how, or why, or when—or what it even means to be in heaven. Does it mean being a chubby winged baby who plays the harp? A perpetually delighted spirit floating around all day with the giggles? Does it mean sitting beside God, 24/7-trillion, reveling in the awesomeness of his … fabulous feet?
Many Christians are deeply enamored of pretending they know the rules of getting into heaven. But they don’t. No one does. And using the Bible to determine who gets into heaven is like using the IRS code to determine what size hat you wear. Except what size hat you wear probably is somewhere in the infernal IRS code. But pointing to virtually any Bible passage as “proof” of who does and doesn’t get into heaven is like pointing to a flock of two hundred crows passing overhead, and saying, “That one right there is the one that crapped on my car.”
So what can we know about God, and heaven, and the ultimate fates of any of us?
I have no idea. But one thing I do know is that I, a Christian, am absolutely, one hundred percent comfortable with the idea that God is nothing if not fair.
It’s not fair for a Muslim baby to go to hell because he or she died not being a Christian. It’s not fair to create gay people—and then insist they spend their lives celibate. It’s not fair for a murdering rapist to be ushered into heaven just because he said the right words before he died.
I believe that ultimately God is nothing if not just, equitable, and fair. And so I am comfortable leaving up to him/her the ultimate fate of anyone whom I personally can’t imagine God or anyone else forgiving what they have done.
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See also my Is God’s Justice Different Than Our? Hell, No!
And if you Google “Who gets into heaven?” one of the first things you get is this thing I made/wrote: