What In the Hell
Through my childhood years, my high school years, and even in college, my time was spent on how I could “reach the lost”. How I could help those I met “come to Christ”. I spent countless nights at Long Branch Saloon shooting pool, playing foosball, and drinking Diet Coke. All while wearing a t-shirt with some Bible verse and cutesy cartoon. All the while thinking that if there were people in the bar, they needed to hear about God, from me.
In hindsight, I realize that I learned more from the friends I met there than I most likely I taught them. I have asked some questions in the years that followed. So what became of them? And what becomes of them? Did I fail in some great mission? Am I failing even still by not trying to convert every soul I see? And for some reason, among all of these questions, I am reminded of one asked of me years ago. Will I see Gandhi in heaven?
The question has also been asked of me, is there a hell? Much like there was or was not a dinosaur, the grace and sacrifice of Christ has made the point moot. And if there is a hell, and Christ preached there three days after his earthly death, then who am I to say he might not go back with the same intention? If you or a loved one, only became a follower of God to avoid hell, then you or a loved one, are doing it wrong.
By the same token, if you as a Christian, shape your world view or plan your day around the idea that hell exists (and is hot, and bad, and stinky), you may miss the love of God, the salfivic work of Christ, and the grace given to all who live, that we are called to extend. Isn’t that the problem with God letting Gandhi into heaven? That he did not earn it by saying some prayer or asking Jesus “into his heart”?
If God offered compassion and divine love to all who took a breath here on earth and extended that same love and compassion to the after life, wouldn’t that mean we are to do the same? I suppose that somehow that would mean we were not special in any way by the fact that we claim to follow Christ. Or, that means, that following Christ might mean more than going to church, reading a sacred text, or saying a prayer of repentance.
There is enough hell on this earth without me concerning myself with a hell in the future. If that is hard to believe then take a look around. And in the example of Christ descending into hell, we might want to go across town, or to a famine ravaged area in the world (which might very well be the same place), and offer relief. Perhaps spend less of our money on little plastic bottles of water and more money on wells for people that travel three hours each way to get five gallons of clean water each day. Maybe finding the blessings our lives and trying to share them.
For the record, these words are written for myself. These admonishments are mostly for me. And for the record, I feel like my mother and Gandhi are together right now telling jokes about how seriously I take myself sometimes.