This Has Been the Year of Hell

At least NPR thinks it is. Here is a 6 minute audio clip of hell in the news. Of course, Rob Bell figures prominently. Bell left the pastoral ministry soon after he suggested that eventually hell would be emptied through the love of God. This is not a novel suggestion. It has always been around the edges of orthodoxy but has never made it into orthodoxy.

Most Christians conveniently forget that Jesus put hell on the map. The Old Testament is rather quiet on the subject, even to the point that some suggest it can’t be found there. But turn to the New Testament and things turn a bit hotter, so to speak. Just at the point where salvation breaks through with power in the person of Jesus, hell breaks out in technicolor. Jesus is the producer of this movie. He is the wonderful Savior. But he talks of horrors that are almost unmentionable in normal society. I wonder if we are so easy talking about Jesus so much because we don’t talk about what he talked a lot about.

Bottom line: in this life we are making huge choices, gigantic choices, never to be reversed choices. There is no such thing as a small life because each life participates in the drama of selection, picking and walking the road our spirit takes, what shapes us now, what forms us now into what we will become forever. You can’t be small when the results of your life are so forever.

Actually, this is the bottom line: the love of God, who woos us to the narrow way and teaches us how to live a forever life beginning now. I sometimes wish so much wasn’t up for grabs, but we know it in our soul. We feel the drama inside, that there is something that wants to own us, enslave us, have us. If you have ever fought an addiction, faced an insurmountably destructive temptation, brought down upon yourself a consequence that doesn’t quit, then you know what it means to be chased. Something wicked this way comes. And into this dread, this darkness, this foreboding awareness of a hole opening up, comes good news of redeeming love. Destruction is not the final word. Love is, the love of a saving God who looks upon our miserable condition in mercy.

So hell is a pretty big word in our vocabulary. But grace is bigger, so big we can forget how small hell is. Grace did more abound, as the Apostle Paul puts it.

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