Everyday as I wait for the elevator at work I’m greeting by the sign above. It’s there to offer people a safer alternative “if” there should be a fire. The sad thing is I know far to many people who view their relationship with God as if it serves the same purpose.
In case of Hell use God. We’ve been told all our lives that Hell is a scary place. Whether it be our overactive imaginations as we try to comprehend the symbolism of Revelation, 0r the gruesome detail that Dante put into his nine circles. Wherever you got your description of Hell I can bet it wasn’t pleasant.
But fear of Hell is a terrible reason to follow God for many reasons.
First, it only causes resentment.
If you’ve ever known anyone in an abusive relationship than you know exactly what I’m talking about. They stay in the relationship only for fear of what might happen if they leave. In the end they resent not only the abuser but also themselves for allowing themselves to be in this situation in the first place and less strength to fix it with each passing day. They are dying inside everyday but they keep telling themselves it’s better than the alternative. But it isn’t.
If this is how you truly see God, if the Gospel has been reduced to, “Good news, you don’t have to burn for eternity!”, then you are in an abusive relationship with God. This isn’t your fault, but it isn’t God’s fault either. This is the result of years of bad teaching.
Jesus didn’t give his life and ask you to do the same just so you wouldn’t eventually suffer but so you could finally live.
Second, it’s completely self-centered.
My guess is that few subscribe to the idea that we obey the law to avoid going to prison. Sure prison would be awful but that’s not why most of us do it. We obey the law because it’s right. It’s better for everyone if we obey the law. It’s part of being a good citizen. Not driving recklessly protect me and you.
To many of us see salvation and the Gospel as something that happens to us later. It’s just a deposit into the afterlife. Do good now so that good can happen to me later. But that’s not the Gospel at all. The Gospel is right here, right now. Life and life more abundantly doesn’t just begin when you die. It starts right now. And it doesn’t only impact you. It impacts everyone you come in contact with. The kingdom of God is here but if Hell is your only motivation I fear you’ve still standing at it’s borders.
Jesus didn’t give his life and ask you to do the same just so you wouldn’t eventually suffer but so you would finally live. And so the world would be better by your living.
Finally, it’s not really possible.
A true relationship with God is based on affection, respect and admiration not out of fear. God has great affection for us, came to us, died for us, and lives in us. We love him because he first loved us, not because we think he’s hanging the threat of Hell over our heads if we don’t. We’re hung up on Hell while God is hung up on us. We’re striving to live forever while he is trying to get us to live right now. If we can figure this out, forever will take care of itself.
If you can look at your life and say that you’re following God only because Hell is far to terrifying then I want you to know that God has something better in mind. You probably find your relationship with God hallow, sad, and stressful. That is not God’s design as far as I can tell. I can’t flip a switch and make it right. I can simply shine the light and hope that you will no longer be content when there is much better available. I can tell you you’re not alone and that there are many who would love to take this journey with you.
Jesus didn’t give his life and ask you to do the same just so you wouldn’t eventually suffer but so you would finally live. And so the world would be better by your living. This is the Gospel.