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I’ve heard Christianity maligned as being narrow-minded for saying that just because someone doesn’t believe like we do, that we Christians think they are going to hell.  I got to thinking about this and talking to other folks about it.  The question inevitably arose:  Why DOES hell exist?

It’s a complicated issue, and I don’t pretend to know it all or to be able to adequately explain even what I believe about it, but here’s what I’ve come up with:  Hell is a result of the wrong that we all do.  It’s a result of the undeniable human condition that some call sin, others call moral guilt, and that we all experience both as culprits and as victims.

So, here’s an eye-opener:  If it’s sin that sends us there, then it’s not any belief or denial of it that lands us in the place of doom.  I can’t say that anyone is going to hell because of unbelief in Jesus.  We were all going there already.

So now it sounds like that is to be the destination for all of us, doesn’t it.  Am I now denying the existence of heaven?  Not at all.  The reason we know evil is that we know good.  The reason we feel pain is that we know what it is like to be comfortable.  Ugliness is a perversion of beauty.  And so hell must also have its counterpart.

We tend to be a very polite society.  I’ve heard that we say please and thank-you and excuse me more than other cultures.  We also tend to downplay apologies by saying that’s OK, when perhaps I forgive you might be more appropriate.  After all, if it were “OK,” there would be no need for an apology, now would there.  Do you think we tend to project this attitude on God?  I mean, do we think He will also downplay our wrong-doing and overlook our sin?  And will He do it for the wrongs of our enemies as well as for ours?

What a dilemma!  He loves us dearly, and yet here we are in this mess.  He can’t forgive one without forgiving all, yet how can He just turn a blind eye to our guilt?  Or should He rate our sins?  Actually, I might think that the one who stole my wallet is worthy of judgment, while you might say the one who betrayed you is more guilty.  Where should the line be drawn?

So let’s say we’re all in the same boat.  We’re all guilty of something – many somethings.  We have to admit the boat is sinking!  We’re in trouble and we know it.  But on the horizon we see a Rescuer.  We hear a loudspeaker:  “Climb on board my rescue craft and let me help you.  It’s the only way you’ll escape the storm!”

Some will accept the offer, maybe a bit skeptically at first.  Others will scoff and look for another way out.  Still others may deny their fate, believing if they just row fast enough they’ll make it to safety.  It is not my intention to get into all the theological implications, explaining biblical covenants or the substitutionary death of Christ here.  It was just a huge awakening for me to realize that it’s not unbelief that leaves us in our sinking boat – it’s simply failure to accept the rescue.  And I wanted to share my thoughts with you.

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2 Responses to “What is the Gospel, Anyway?”

  • Bob Kessener:

    I’m sure glad that I finally heard the Truth, wrestled with unlearning, and accepted the Truth. Wow is God Good!

  • Linda Hogue:

    I’d love to hear more of your story, Bob. The learning/unlearning/relearning thing is fascinating, necessary, and beautiful, isn’t it!

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