Hell is real, and I don’t care. (Disclosing my own great shame…)

If I really believe the Bible (and I do) – and I really want to take Jesus at His word (I really do!) – then there is just no way for me to get around the very uncomfortable reality of hell.  Jesus just talked about it way too often and in too graphic of detail for me to simply write it off as misinterpretation, exaggeration, or metaphorical speech.

I could now fill up the rest of this post by chronicling Jesus’ own references to hell (there are 70 of them! – more than any other single topic He discussed).  I could go on to cite all the trusted Biblical scholars of the past 2000 years who knew way more than more than I do and have invested far more time in Biblical study than I have – but that is not the purpose of this post…

If I may be transparent for a moment and just peel back the mask of superficial piety, the reality of hell presents me with two very convicting realities about myself, personally:

  1. Hell is realI do not believe hell is real.1
  2. I do not love my neighbor as myself.

1. I do not believe hell is real.1  Well, I do.  Or, at least I say I do.  And I think I do…

But what should we believe, my words or my actions?  My life surely doesn’t say I really believe in a real hell.  If it did, I would tirelessly work to prevent anyone and everyone I possibly could from ever going there!

I would spend every moment of my life – every dollar to my name – in seeking every possible opportunity I could find to keep anyone I could out of that place!  I would spend a great deal of my life in slums and prisons and rehab centers and ICU waiting areas and war zones, frantically telling everyone I could about the destruction that surely awaits their stubborn unbelief…

…which leads me to my second shameful confession, which is even more atrocious than the first:

2. I must not really love my neighbor as myself.  If I did, I would use any and every means necessary to prevent any neighbor – friend or stranger or foe – from progressing another day towards hell… but I don’t.  I would never stop praying for the salvation of the lost… but I do.

insideI think part of what makes admitting the reality of hell so difficult for so many Christians (myself included) is that, if we say “there is a real hell, and people are going there” and we really mean it, then we are shining a gigantic spotlight on our own horrendous apathy at the reality of such a statement…

If I’m being honest, part of why I am so afraid of admitting there is a literal hell where people will suffer in the unspeakable anguish of being separated from the glorious Presence of the Lord forever is because I just don’t want to face the hypocritical reality of how very little my life demonstrates that I give a care about its existence and what people I know and live near may face there for eternity…

1 Just to be clear, I do believe hell is real.  My point is, my life doesn’t really demonstrate that belief.  So, it feels very hypocritical for me to claim something so boldly, then not back up the claim with a life that really shows I believe it and I’m serious about it…

I was sharing this confession with another fellow seminarian, and this was his reply:

This is a sobering truth… and I fall in the same category.  Right now, I am sitting at the local coffee shop as I write, likely surrounded by people who are living hell-bound lives.  What am I doing about it?  I am sitting, writing about how they’re going to hell, while enjoying my $3 coffee…

…If only I were more enthralled with the idea of offering up the everlasting joys of a heaven-bound life than pondering the parameters of a hellish existence…

What do you say?  Please, leave a comment, and affirm and/or amend my thinking on this very unpleasant topic…

 

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