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HELL -- What Do You Believe?

I think we lost someone from Wednesday Bible study last week because she asked me if I believed in hell and I said, “No.” She responded, “I know where you’re coming from.”

And with that I felt she had boxed me up and put a label on me and a not very nice one at that. At the very least, she decided I was on the wrong side of things, and because of that I’m probably destined for that place I don’t believe in.

It’s hard because I really want all people to come together around Scripture and to probe its meaning together, recognizing that none of us has a complete hold on the Truth. But that doesn’t work if some of us sit in judgment over others with whom we disagree.

It seems to me that part of what happens in churches is that people do not feel safe to publicly share their doubts and questions when the reality is that if we have doubts and questions, we can be assured that others do as well. I think people stop coming to church when things don’t make sense to them rather than to bring their questions and doubts to the first place that should welcome them.

The only thing I find unacceptable in someone’s use of the Bible is when it is used to condemn other people – Christ didn’t die on the cross so that we could then whack people over the head with it.

But questions? Doubts? Those are welcome. I’m putting it out there – I don’t believe in hell after death; I believe that there are living hells, but we also confess that Jesus descended into hell; so, why would Jesus descend into hell if not to vanquish it? If not to raise people up out of it?

Maybe you think differently. Maybe you think like St. Therese of Lisieux who said, “I believe in hell; I just don’t think anyone is in it.” Or maybe like the woman at Bible study you believe in a fiery place. Since none of us truly knows, wouldn’t it be good to be humble and gracious and just keep asking each other questions in hopes that together we might grow deeper in our understanding of one another and of God? Doesn’t that sound more Christ-like than putting demerit points next to someone’s name?

So, what do you think? Do you believe in hell? What does that hell look like? Who's responsible for it? Who goes there? How does anyone get out?

All answers and further questions welcomed.

--Pastor Dianne

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