Losing Religious Fear: Leaving A Bigger Impact

THE PATH LESS TRAVELLED

Urgency. When we hear that word, we picture intensity and an attitudinal hastiness in spirit. What would cause this urgency in someone, and what is the worth behind it? 

When we believe in something so strongly, it isn’t uncommon for that belief to galvanize us to do something in response. What if that belief was telling us to invite others to new perspectives? What if the invitation was rejected because those people weren’t interested in sharing in a new perspective, or in even considering one? 

For the Christian, there is an urgency for the world of unbelievers to have the chance to see the truth and goodness of faith in Jesus Christ. We can’t make a single person choose anything, but we have the influence to curve the pathway of someone’s decision to choose their own path, or to choose a path waiting for them to take. 

EYE-OPENERS FOR THE SKEPTICS

Why do Christians believe in Hell? If the answer is simply that it’s in the Bible, the conversation can end abruptly because there tends to be more questions about the Bible than about the whys of the belief in the Hell from the book. 

Besides the way Jesus Himself spoke more about Hell than about Heaven is also an indicator of just how serious it is to be considered and not overlooked. Also, the descriptions of Hell aren’t there just to scare kids: they’re meant to be eye-openers for those who don’t believe in the battle of good versus evil; of demons versus angels, of sin and the powers of this dark world who are worse enemies than the mere argument of belief or disbelief in Christ (Ephesians 6:12). There is enough detail of Hell in the Bible to instill trembles in more than children.

DIFFERENT FORMS OF DESPERATION

For those who believe there is just life here, and not a life after this, then this life must appear very desperate. For those who see a life beyond this one, this life looks desperate—but in a different way. The desperation of those who only believe in this life have the worry of not having more to enjoy than just the pleasures of Earth life. But the desperation for the rest of the believers is that the life we live here is just the tip of the iceberg for eternity, and that means who we are now is just a shadow of who we will be for the remainder of our existence. The matter with who we will be in the future is the determination of which eternal community we belong to.

For those who only seek their own pleasure, the depth of their character only reaches as far as the depths to which selfishness can sink. But for those who seek to build something with their life must seek what kind of leader would best show them how to develop something that could ripple into eternity; something to cause an impact as wide as the Good News of Christ Jesus has spread. 2,000 years later we’re still talking about His name and life. People have been talking about Jesus all this time, and the conversation didn’t ever end. Someone was making an impact all this time, and the ripple still hasn’t stopped.

REAL REASON FOR A FEAR OF HELL

If belief in Hell is really a motivator to more carefully consider our purpose, character, and way of life, then maybe the belief itself isn’t centered on some religious fear. Perhaps, the fear of Hell is a reveal about the way we see life here as the first true reflection of something so much darker and scarier than a meaningless Earth life; maybe it’s humanity recognizing there must be more to life than this, and even if we don’t have the answers, or don’t think we do, we realize the terror in not knowing with certainty what those answers are, and the chance in being wrong has higher consequences than what allows our minds to have peace. 

The images of Hell being an unquenchable fire, where the worm never dies, where there is no rest, where there is only suffering—what do these point to? They aren’t meant to be merely images of torture and grotesqueness. What we take away from the horrifying images of what Hell really is is what it means to throw away the beautiful gift of love for the purely selfish motivation of just living for ourselves. Within the self, and only the self, there is only Hell. Created within the love of the infinitely good God, our natural self is within God. We are lost until we understand this. This is what I believe it means to be truly “lost,” as Christians put it. We cannot see how hopeless we are until we realize that our center must be our worship and recognition of our need for God, not our need for more of anything else. The Hell we can refer to as the fiery, worm-filled, misery-induced volcano, is also our existence without anything that remotely insinuates God’s goodness, provision, love, comfort, peace, or selflessness. The complete, utter, indistinguishable absence of God; absolute evil, darkness, despair, emptiness, meaninglessness, chaos, and hopelessness. This is what Hell is. And what worse place to experience the real Hell than a place where everything we could possibly imagine is the worst-case scenario? (Revelation 14:11, Mark 9:48, Matthew 13:42

WE WEREN’T HERE FIRST

Hell isn’t really meant to be a scary picture for adults to tell their kids for disciplinary purposes, it’s a real place for us to consider—to reflect on—how we are living HERE. Do we live for ourselves, for our own idealistic version of what it means to be a “good person,” or are we living for something greater than ourselves? Something where the credit doesn’t go back to us, but to Who gave us all we have. We weren’t here first. Many of us think this is all there is because we somehow manifest the idea that we were the first to arrive. But we arrived later. There is a humbleness to be discovered and a gem to uncover from the excavation that we are not the pioneers of existence. We didn’t find life, life came into us—and from where? From whom? This is the ignorance that leads to Hell, no matter how “good” any one of us thinks we are. Are we willing to be humbled inside of our limited perspective to see a larger truth outside what we think is “all there is”?

A HEAVIER TOLL THAN RELIGIOUS FEAR

Christians are urgent because, yes, we don’t want to even think about a person ending up in a place like the one above. But… there is far more to it than provoking fear of fire and brimstone. There is a portion of the fear of Hell that resides deeper than the fear of the physical elements of such a place.

Consider the infinitely heavier toll of horrible loneliness in the depths of the worst place to suffer the loss of connection. Think about the screams of those who are not wailing for less than the thought that where they are is unfair, but because they permanently retain the most eternal regret imaginable: They chose to live for something so small, transient, and selfish, and they made that choice over and over in the face of a world where there was so much more than mere pleasure.

There are people suffering, dying. Many are just lonely in prison, on death row; on the streets. How do we love those who suffer? How do we make an impact on those who are just as human and God-breathed as us? Do we take care of one another, or do we toss each other away like garbage; an inconvenience to an opportunity at fortune and comfort? What part do our beliefs have in the way we look at someone without food, or the way we view children abandoned and left to die? Is being a “good person” enough to leave the ripple that there is more to this life than the corruption of a planet turned upside down by sin and evil? Is being a good person enough to convince a dying world that there is actually hope? What is hope when all we believe is that we need to feel better again when our feelings remain haunted? What is hope when we believe all we need to do is find the next thing to get us back to feeling comforted? Is comfort our purpose? When what we believe blinds us from a godly love, then our purpose becomes all about us, and that is the core of Hell: no God, no love, no connection, purpose or meaning… no goodness. Just ourselves, and the loss of every other single good thing imaginable, and unimaginable. 

A NEW PERSPECTIVE FOR URGENCY

Do we not see urgency to not live with that? Hell isn’t just about religious fear; that is a single bracket on a much larger field of understanding. There should be an urgency for people not to just see themselves as the period at the end of their sentence. We are all commas, semi-colons, hyphens… not a single one of us can end the sentence. But when we try, there is Hell waiting, because God’s Kingdom isn’t waiting for those living for themselves. His Kingdom is made of those who saw too much Jesus to view themselves as an end. The end must come with the transforming love of Christ in each one of us. This is the way furthest from the path to Hell. Are we urgent with ensuring that as many people as possible don’t wind up shocked that this life was always more than the eyes can see?

If we want to truly live, we must stop seeing ourselves first. Can we stop rolling our eyes at what we think belief holds back from us, and start to consider how much our belief could give to others?

Let us bless others until they know nothing less than Jesus’ love. In His name, amen. 

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