go to hell

I wish the church would just go to hell.

Into the deepest depths of hell, in fact. Not just the surface level, but down into the white hot flames, the most painful, excruciating places.

Where the suffering is intense. Where people come to curse the Lord with as much fervor that could otherwise be mistaken for worship.

Where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Where death is reality. Where darkness rules.

Church: one of the few entities on earth that has a core message potentially worth living and dying for. Light of the world. Salt of the earth. Unconditional love.  That is when it doesn’t get bogged down with selfishness, superiority, or cynicism.

We should be convinced that life is not about acquisition – that living generously is a better way to live. Giving food to the hungry or resourcing the poor is not an obligation or a chore or a bullet point on a job description. Our intended trajectory away from greed and self-centeredness is counter-cultural and inspiring.

Rob Bell, in Velvet Elvis, says that one of the worst things to have happened to the Christian faith is the movement towards heaven and hell being some distant places – separated from our day to day experience.  It leads to us wanting to escape this planet that must be void of God, in this scenario.  Our trajectory becomes about saving our souls from eventual damnations and more about ME spending forever in bliss and satisfaction.

Instead, heaven and hell are present realities.  Eternity started on day one. Hell is right here right now.  It’s the mother who can’t feed her children.  It’s the pain of loss.  It’s disease.  It’s ridicule and bullying and genocide.

You want to get to heaven…. bring it.

Jesus didn’t leave some mystical land to come to our neutral ground to persuade people to be good so they can ride the salvation express to heaven.  He came, himself, and brought heaven with him – by healing and feeding, by turning people’s hearts in a different direction, and by turning water into wine.

I want the church to go to hell, too.  I want people to see the comparison – to consider the alternative.

I want people to understand that heaven isn’t about walking streets of gold and wearing sparkling white robes.

Heaven is about the tears and pain and the bruises that come before restoration.  It’s about hard-core, unabashed love that doesn’t ask questions or require any thing besides your being.  It’s about getting rid of the darkness by shining in s spark of light – not about pointing out how dark hell is.

Heaven is what moves in when hell is pushed out.

But you can’t push hell out of the picture from the sidelines.  You can’t feed hungry people if you don’t go where the hungry people are.  You can’t build relationships by sitting on your couch.

What a hellish perspective then to celebrate “some glad morning” when we all will “fly away.”  For those who think that trying to live like Jesus is the best way to live, it seems counter intuitive that God would have his people fleeing the scene.  Who’s left to advocate for those with no voice?  To feed those with no food?  To visit those with no friends?  To give hope to those who have nothing to look forward to?

So, I’m done with the halo envy.

I’m done with looking forward to my mansion and streets of gold and diamond harp.

If there’s no more hope or love or happiness today than there was yesterday then we’re all missing something.  If we’re living as if this place is doomed, then we’ve screwed up big time.  If you’re not concerned about replacing hell here and now with heaven here and now, then we are diluting the redemptive message that Jesus was supposed to be all about.

Jesus example, if we believe it, says that being concerned that someone’s stomach isn’t full is at least as important as the state of their soul.  It shows that aiming towards emotional maturity is at least as important as aiming towards spiritual maturity.  He tries to convince us tax collectors, and prostitutes aren’t the wrong crowd.

Jesus didn’t seem to think that going to hell was such a bad idea.

In fact, it was probably the most important thing He ever did.

4 comments

  1. This is a fabulous post. You’re absolutely 100% right … and just a teeny bit semantically wrong, which will send the theological bloodhounds baying after you.

    The church absolutely needs to see what you’re describing and to do what you’re describing. And most semantically pure theologians will describe this as doing the work of the kingdom of God — God’s way of ruling — not as bringing heaven or hell to earth, since heaven and hell really are places that we really will go to.

    You’re also absolutely right that some Christians are so focused on their success in the sweet bye-and-bye that they forget they are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God has laid out in advance for them to do. And this is really wrong.

    The reason I think heaven matters as a place is because it makes earth matter less. Why should we care about mansions here when we’re going to have mansions there? The certainty of heaven should free us to be about God’s business on earth. And God’s business includes creating justice, or, in your much more clear words, getting rid of the symptoms of hell.

    I love what you’re doing. Keep it up.

    1. Thanks Carlene. Always appreciate your words.

      Now… two things:

      1) Theological bloodhounds don’t scare me 🙂 And getting caught up in the semantics the the last thing I care about. My argument is that when we bring in semantics we’re making it more about the knowledge that we personally have and the process that we’re personally following. It because about us, about what we know, where we’re going, what our agenda is, etc. Jesus was selfless. Jesus didn’t get caught up in semantics – in fact, he didn’t get caught up in the after life at all, except one parable where Lazarus goes to heaven and the rich man who wasn’t generous goes to hell.

      The more I know, the more I know I don’t know.

      2) You said “…since heaven and hell really are places that we really will go to.”

      I agree that they’re “places” – but the going to seems to be more about a separation of time than distance. It’s the renewal of all things, its the restoration….

      Even this, it’s harmful to get bogged down in too many of the technicalities, but the difference is mentality is important. If I’m convinced that I’m leaving this place, then I have less concern for it now… it’s not mine, or it’s mine just temporarily. If I’m spending forever “here” then I’ve suddenly got a lot more buy in.

      Here’s an interesting post I found… not that this guy is an expert by any means, but he’s done a little research and lays out some similiar ideas:

      http://kyvoice.com/winchestersun/newerworld/?p=1024

      Either way, just thoughts of a guy trying to figure out how to aim.

  2. I agree with you Des. I know many “Christians” who think their job is to just sit around and wait for the place heaven instead of sharing the warmth the Jesus gave us.

  3. Good to be reminded that we are to bring heaven to earth. I’ll be thinking about this one for a few days for sure.

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