“But that’s what the Bible says about hell.” Stop that!


(A great friend of Unfundamentalist Christians is a young woman named Nicole Villacres. I was recently poking about Nicole’s blog when I came across the piece below. I liked its honest, unpretentious heart; it has an old-school energy that I find refreshing and touching. So I asked Nicole if I could  share it here, and appreciate her saying yes. — John Shore)

There is terror in the Christian church. It is the terrible fear of eternal damnation and torture. The fear of hell. Not even the fear of the omnipotent God, but the fear of hell.

I began wrestling with the concept of hell as God brought more gay friends into my life. Especially Christian gay friends who walked closely with the Lord. As I began to look at the Bible for myself rather than rely on pastors or teachings from my childhood, I began to see Jesus more clearly.

I saw the cross for what it was: an epic example of perfect love in action. It was the utmost God could possibly do in human form to show his love. For all.

“It is finished.”

When Jesus said those words, he meant them. He didn’t mean, “Thank God this physical torture is over and I can die, come back to life, and then torture the majority of humanity in flames forever—woo-hoo!” When he said “It is finished,” he meant it. He had died once for all. He has the right to every soul that has ever lived, is living or will live. He took all our sins on the cross and killed them. Killed them. The sacrificial, loving death of God is that powerful. Nothing is more powerful than love.

Not even your sin. Not even mine. Not anyone’s.

There is no hell. For me, believing in hell would blasphemy against what Jesus did on the cross. Blasphemy against the nature of Jesus Christ. We humans do not tolerate torturers. When we discover someone has tortured someone else—hurt them, burned them, kept them alive so they could torture them some more—what do we do with people like that? We lock them up and throw away the key! Depending on the depth of the depravity, we may even sentence them to death. And you are willing to believe that Jesus Christ could do that? To the people he loved so much that he died for them? He can’t forget them, you know. Any more than a parent could forget their own child being in agony for eternity.

How can anyone believe that Jesus would allow hell?

You may shrug your shoulders in sad helplessness, and say, “But that’s what it says in the Bible … ” Stop that! Use your brain. Have you really explored for yourself (not just listened to a pastor or your parents or your teachers) the scriptures related to hell? Have you investigated the original language to see what it means? When Jesus tells a story about a rich man and a poor man—one who goes to a place of torment, and one who goes to the bosom of Abraham*—is he talking about reality? Does that mean we’re all going to be hugged by Abraham for eternity? No? You don’t believe that? Then why do you so easily believe that the place of torment was a real place? Why does hell win here?

Jesus was telling a parable. A story to make you think. He wasn’t describing the literal afterlife. And neither man in the story was more or less a sinner than the other.

If you want to truly walk in love as Jesus did, you’ll ask him to eradicate your fear, to help you take a leap of faith. Ask the Holy Spirit to clear your mind of past beliefs that you don’t ever question, and to open your mind to his voice as you read the Bible. Paul believed that no one and nothing could snatch him out of God’s hand. If you believe that, then why are you so afraid of questions? There is nothing you can do that will remove you from God’s hand. Nothing.

So question. Question everything that makes no sense to you. Because that’s the Holy Spirit in you. Trust him.

*About this parable we offer What Jesus really meant by the story of Lazarus.

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