Found Jesus? Try looking in Hell

“Hell is the absence of God”.  This is a pithy definition that many Christians find attractive. It shoves under the rug any suggestion that God might have created Hell as a place of eternal torment and punishment for human disobedience.  Since God will not force us to love ‘him’, we must make the choice ourselves, or so it goes.  And what Christian would not choose  the presence of God in Heaven?  If God is omnipresent, if “he” is everywhere, then his absence is ‘no where’.  Hell is the last death, annihilation.   This makes the bitter pill of damnation a bit easier to swallow.

But Jesus is suggesting something else, that God is not in Heaven but may actually spend a lot of time in Hell.  Many of his followers readily choose to spend time in Hell, living with and helping those who cannot escape, at least not on their own.  Classic examples are Father Damien,  Dorothy Day, Albert Schweitzer, Corrie ten Boom, Nelson Mandela and Mother Theresa.  Thousands, if not millions, of others, have forfeited comfortable Sunday church meetings, choir practice and Bible study to devote their time and energy in the service of the sick, the poor and the imprisoned.  This is where they find God.  This is where they lead others to God. Not through pseudo-evangelical proselytizing about Hell and Heaven.  Not through fear and intimidation, but through self-sacrifice and love.

The other day I suggested that,  to many Evangelicals, both progressive and fundamentalist, if you took away Hell you would take away their vision of Jesus.  Hell may even be a more important tenet of the Christian faith than Jesus, because without Hell what is there for Jesus to save us from?

But maybe there’s another way to look at Hell, a way that is not so doctrinaire but more holistic.  Maybe the closest we can get to God is in Hell, though not by reflecting on our own pain but through focusing on the pain of others.  No gains or rewards, no divine pats on the back.  Just encountering the beauty and presence of God in some of the vilest and most horrifying cesspits of the world.  Why else would anyone willingly live their lives with those people, in those places? A love of God that I can only imagine.

Perhaps this points us to what Heaven ( or more accurately, the Kingdom of God ) might look like.  It’s not a place where we go when we die and it’s not a return of the mythical Garden of Eden.  It’s not something God gives to us for being good, but a world that we must earn by working towards eliminating our man-made Hells.  Of course, the chances of this happening does not look  good, but some amazing people are busy making it happen, one piece at a time.

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  1. #1 by logiopath on March 15, 2011 - 10:35 pm

    I agree–in many senses, some of the evangelical/fundementalist churches we attended seemed obsessed with death and hell, and what happens when you die (and boy, do they invent some whoppers).

    One of the lines was “Jesus talked more about hell than heaven . . .” Well, I don’t think the NT has Jesus talk much about either–he spoke frequently about the Kingdom of Heaven, but not much about the top of the tower, so to speak.

  2. #2 by OLUWTOSIN!!! on March 18, 2012 - 1:48 pm

    As you have rightly stated, hell is the absence of God as heaven is the presence of God…all through Scriptures,the events mentioned that will or are happening in hell confirms the absence of God(for instance God is light and hell is filled with thick darkness matt22:13).Now God loves us so much He wants us to be in His presence, not His absence, that’s why He sent Jesus to go and conquer hell so if we accept Him, can make heaven,here is the thing, we are christians(those that have accepted Him as Lord and Saviour)and as such behave like-christ so it is only appropriate to follow the foot steps of Jesus or we will be abusing our just defined faith.

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