Sunday, February 19, 2012

Hell: Because Love Wins

Last week I did a seminar for the Exeter Uni CU on 'what about hell?'

This shouldn't be easy to think about, and it isn't.

We watched the video below to get us thinking - asking ourselves where the "me too!" moments in the video are, and where the "what, no!" moments are. What resonates and what raises questions for us.When someone puts the issue out there its good to hear what's being said.

I wanted us to think about how we feel about hell, or more broadly the prospect of divine judgment (since our doctrinal basis of fellowship only specifies: "The Lord Jesus Christ will return in person, to judge everyone, to execute God's just condemnation on those who have not repented and to receive the redeemed to eternal glory.")

Emotionally the subject is difficult, very difficult, personally. Its about people I know who today refuse to come to Christ (i.e. repent).

It's about how we sit between the final Hallelujah chorus (Rev 19), and Paul's unceasing anguish and sorrow for those he knows who don't know the love of Christ (Romans 9:2). How does that make sense? I'm not sure we'll ever really be ready to sing the Hallelujah chorus before it's sung on the final day (despite the fact that scratch choirs sing it every Christmas as they put on Handel's Messiah).

Books on hell should be tear-stained.

Jesus wept over Jerusalem, and then shed his blood for them.

If I'm not on the verge of tears and churning up inside then I don't think I can talk about this.

With tears the subject is difficult because it's the love God that moves us, and we have to ask - how can God love and people be judged.

In some cases we have no issue with that - (for right or wrong) everyone thinks certain people ("the evil people" **) should be punished... but it becomes a problem for us when we think about the people we love. How can I love someone and God turn them away, or worse?

To help us think about love we listened to a clip of Peter Cook & Dudley Moore's The Psychiatrist sketch that illustrates how true love is jealous love.  I think this is where we begin to find an answer to there being judgment and a God of love. It's not a puzzle to solve, its part of what love is like.  Seeing also that the LORD calls himself jealous, and has a burning love for his Son, his people, and his world and will not tolerate attacks on them.

Its this burning love that is withheld in extreme patience every day until Christ returns, its this love that will either burn for us (as the Son's bride) or against us.

Bell finally observes that the problem people have on the hell question is that we have nice Jesus behind whom lurks a nasty Father... so he says, lets not talk about "hell"... whereas surely our answer is found in seeing that behind loving Jesus is the fountain of all love, his generous Father. Trinity isn't the complicated bit, it's the only way the gospel makes sense. 

The passionate love of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit - the flame of Yah that burns with a love strong as death is where all things come together, because in the end, love wins.


** Bell suggests saying "Gandhi is in Hell" its a stretch... change it to Hitler and the video wouldn't sound so liberated would it? For right or wrong most of us think there is a line somewhere. Usually around virtue rather than with reference to Christ... abstract examples are one thing, its closer to home that it feels so stomach churning - and it probably should.

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