One of my goals when I moved back to Florida was to read as many books as possible before heading down to Hawaii in late September (super profound, I know). I’m currently reading, and being incredibly challenged by, this brilliant book called Come With Me by Suzanne Eller. Tonight, I was reading through a chapter sharing the same title as this blog post, and I was intrigued. Eller was sharing an experience she had in which she was listening to a popular Christian radio station, and the announcer stated that most would not follow Jesus if there wasn’t a heaven or hell; “the reward of heaven is the only thing that keeps us from giving in.” (pg. 103)
Being the overly expressive person I am, my jaw dropped when I read through that. However, the more that I thought about it, the more I can see that played out in our American culture today. Many appear to follow Christ out of obligation or fear of hell. I heard dozens of sermons in high school before following Christ where preachers were emphasizing the horrors of hell.
Of course, don’t get me wrong, the idea of hell is completely terrifying! I mean, who would choose eternal physical, mental, and emotional suffering when they could have eternal peace and joy? But, I think we miss the point completely when we are guided by this mindset. If it’s only about our eternal destination and life here is just meant to be a waiting room, was that really the abundant life that Christ was talking about? What is difference between heaven and hell? Do we automatically think the absence of suffering and pain? That’s part of it, of course, but is that all that we think about?
Christians all over the world are suffering physical, mental, and emotional torture all day, every day from the time they follow Jesus until the day they leave this earth. They are facing every aspect of hell listed above – daily pain, suffering, agony, etc. However, they bear it WITH JOY and count it a blessing and honor! WHY? How is that possible? The one and only answer is the stereotypical Sunday school answer that makes us roll our eyes:
Why do we believe? Is it because we love the idea of pain-free eternity? Or is it because we are so deeply in love with Christ that our souls literally cannot bear to be apart from Him for one second? When we enter into relationship with Christ, we enter into the most epic love story that we could ever imagine that’s been taking place since the beginning of time – the Creator who so deeply cherishes and adores us who gave everything He had just to have us reunited with Him again. He is our identity – we can’t imagine a second without Him because we have our entire being in Him! Being apart from Him becomes absolutely unfathomable! So yes, the idea of hell is terrifying… But it’s because that means we are without our very Life Source. Without Him our identity, our purpose, our entire being ceases to exist.
I know you’ve read and heard messages like this a million times, and it becomes a truth that we believe with our heads rather than our hearts – I know I’m completely guilty of this. However, God is so radical and so enthusiastically in love with us that I believe He has more for you and I than that. If your heart feels numb to reality of His wild love, get alone with Him. Hit your knees and let the Holy Spirit bring you back to life. And if all that sounds too cheesy and too emotional or “feminine” for you, at least answer this:
Why do you believe?