[This is offered as part of the Syncroblog for May. Listed below are others’ responses to this writing prompt. Please visit their sites to experience this conversation from a diverse faith group. A big piece of my HeartWork has been to move from fear to Love. Letting go of my fear of Hell was part of this journey]
Yes, I do believe in Hell, BUT maybe not the way you do.
I grew up in church. I was taught at an early age that people who did not make a confession of faith and believe in Jesus and God were going to Hell. Hell was a terrible, awful place where people suffered the never ending fire of Hell. It seemed to me there was more focus on Hell then the love of Jesus and God.
It was not until I was 16 years old that I was baptized. Why the delay? I have no memory of not believing in God/Jesus. My early years are filled with memories of Sunday school. I really believed it was true when we sang “Jesus Loves Me” and “Jesus Loves the little Children of the World, Red and Yellow, Black, and White.” And, I loved him.
If I believed that it was true and that he was the Son of God and that he loved me and died for me, why the delay?
As I can only speak of my memory of that day, I’m not 100% sure it is accurate. Here is the story I tell myself today.
It seemed like it was the one decision I had control over in my life. I was obedient to my mother out of fear, not love, not goodness, BUT FEAR! I did not want to accept Jesus as my savior just because I was afraid of Hell. Eventually, I came to the realization that I wanted to be baptized as an act of Love for Jesus. If Jesus had the courage and love to be crucified for me and my sins, I could march down the aisle in front of the whole church and be baptized – immersed in that cold water. And I did it. I felt some relief that my mother “now knew” I was not going to Hell. Mostly, I felt good about standing with Jesus.
Later, I began to question the use of Hell as a threat to scare people into saying they believed. It really didn’t seem like what Jesus did.
Things really began to work on me about this Hell business when I lost a child at 5 1/2 months gestation. My husband, a Catholic, was distraught that we did not have the child christened at birth. He was sure our innocent child would spend eternity in Limbo. This Limbo thing added a whole new dimension to my beliefs about Heaven and Hell I had not considered. I rejected it. I was not going to believe this innocent child was not going to be with my Jesus and the God of Love just because a priest had not been present to christen him.
Today, my feelings about Hell continue to evolve. I think what Jesus was teaching and modeling is that we create our own heaven or Hell on earth by the choices we make. Even in our worst circumstances that we may not have any control over, we can choose love. It is not easy to choose love, but it is a choice we have. When you are suffering at the hands of others, it can be very hard to choose Love. (The stories of the Holocaust remind me how hard it can be.)
Maybe you don’t want to choose love – I haven’t always chosen love. AND it can be redeemed. There have been times in my life (my divorce comes to mind) – I found it very difficult to “love” my ex-husband. And the Holy Spirit just kept showing up. It took several years, but eventually I was able to “love” my ex-husband and forgive. While I was holding on to the anger and hurt, it was Hell for me. Releasing it was freedom and love.
My faith continues to evolve as I have experience life and others. Today, I don’t really care if there is a real heaven or Hell that we will go to after death. I no longer think there is only way to God. God is so much grander than I ever imagined. Who am I to set limits on God as only being Christian? For now, loving God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit and others is my desire and that is enough for me.
Jeremy Myers – Does Jesus Talk About Hell More Than Heaven?
Wesley Rostoll – Hell, thoughts on annihilationism
K. W. Leslie – Dark Christians
Angie Benjamin – Hell Is For Real
Paul Meier – Hell Is For Real – I’ve Been There and Came Back
Glenn Hager – Abusing Hell
The Virtual Abbess – What The Hell?
Kimbery Klein – Hell, if I know.
Michael Donahoe – Hell Yes…or No?
Liz Dyer – Hell? No!
Margaret Boelman – Hell No I Won’t Go
Loveday Anyim – Why the hell do you believe in hell?
Linda – If you died today, where would you go?
Edwin Aldrich – What the Hell do we really know.
Mallory Pickering – The Time I Blogged About Hell