Part of this whole “growing up” thing, particularly in regard to my faith journey, has been my need to hold out at arms length many things I believed wholeheartedly as a child (and beyond). I’ve come to a point where some of my deepest convictions seem at odds with what I used to believe, and I am navigating the dark and foggy waters in between.
So, I listen. I read. I learn. I question. I walk in these shadows, and celebrate the brief moments of light and clarity when and where I find them.
And sometimes, when I have the strength and the heart, I wrestle with these seeming contradictions.
When it comes to a traditional evangelical understanding of hell, I don’t know where I stand.
I don’t know if I believe anymore in a pit of damnation, in eternal torment and everlasting punishment, in a fiery lake of burning sulfur. I’m still trying to reconcile many other areas of my faith (and my questions about the character of God) with this concept.
But don’t get me wrong. I believe in hell. Unequivocally.
It’s here, all around us.
What else can I say about our world? If I had ever questioned it before, my work in the anti-human trafficking movement would been the final nail in the coffin. What else can I call a world where people are seen not as unique and precious human beings, as souls bearing the very image of God, but rather as commodities to be bought and sold, used, abused, and disposed of?
And that’s just one issue (albeit one I think about every day). Famine, war, abuse, trauma, disease, exploitation, natural disasters; the list goes on and on and on.
For me, the conjecture of men on unknown eternal destinies, quite frankly, pales in comparison to the utter horrors and atrocities millions (even billions) of people experience every day. For them (and yes, sometimes for me), hell is real. And it is now.
We can dream of heaven. We can fear hell.
But really, we can’t know. The utter truth of the matter is that we don’t know what happens after we die. Anything we think we know has to be taken on faith.
But the hell here and now, this hell on earth? It’s real. It’s tangible. It is very much known and experienced.
And I believe that is why Jesus kept calling for the kingdom of heaven to be experienced now. Because heaven can be real here on earth too. Bit by bit, little by little, we can bring the kingdom of heaven to each other.
Tears can be wiped away. Justice can be sought after. Redemption and restoration can occur. We can give each other unearned love, grace, and belonging. And God can be here.
On earth, as it is in heaven.
This post is part of the May Synchroblog “What the Hell?”–thoughts on heaven and hell. Here is a list of the other contributions to this month’s synchroblog:
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 – The Y In The Road
Edwin Aldrich – What the Hell do we really know.
Mallory Pickering – The Time I Blogged About Hell
Elaine – What The Hell?