“What kind of ‘loving’ God would send people to hell?”
This is a question many people proffer, some with anxiety or disbelief, most with anger. I believe – and you are free to disagree with me – that it’s actually the wrongquestion.
It all begins with your worldview. If you have the view that you’ve arrived here on Planet Earth to do your thang, and suddenly here is this “God” character making demands on you, of course it will make no sense to give up a life of seeming-independence to join what looks like a left-field minority.
If, however, you start with a different premise, the picture changes. Let’s say the world belongs to God, and everything in it, right from the very start. His claim on you begins eons before your birth; you belong to Him because your species does. But as fate would have it, your species has chosen to run away from home, as it were. So you find yourself allied by default to darkness, because your species has run away from the light; and darkness, of course, leads to hell. It was a place prepared for punishing evil spirits. Unable to strike directly at God, they want to take as many of His kids with them as they can.
It is a completely different proposition to say “God sends people to hell” as opposed to “God will permit you to go to hell if you insist on following that path”. That is not to say that God is indifferent to your choices. Far from it. He paid an intense personal price to provide you with a way out, a way back home. I don’t think we fully grasp how staggering it is that He was willing to become fully human, live a totally blameless life, and then get tortured to death to ransom us. The value-comparison is similar to you giving your life up for a bunch of little Legomen who are feeding you into the extruder.
Darkness is voracious. It swallows everything it can. It will tell you that the dark is normal, that light is for the unsophisticated, or just for those who only want to see so they can point their fingers at others. It will even tell you that the dark is pretty, fun, inclusive. It certainly is inclusive – the way a shark is inclusive of a school of fish! It is the “Firm” you aren’t supposed to leave.
I hate to diet. The reason I fail at dieting is that it makes me feel so abnormal. I walk past a bakery and grouse, “I can’t eat that or that or that.” It threatens my sense of belonging; I feel “outside” the race of normal human beings who can eat what they want. I think maybe one of the reasons people don’t come to Christ to find their way home, is that they worry that Christianity will feel like a lifelong diet. Actually, it feels like being on a really healthy delicious diet, while the world around you becomes obese on junk food and slow poison. Or, it feels like you’re walking through a junkie neighbourhood. You’re glad you’re not addicted, and you sure wish there was something you could do to help those who are, escape and become all they were created to be. How could a Heavenly Father not feel the same way? So He made a way. He became the bridge. When Jesus Christ states, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except through Me,” He must be taken seriously in all four clauses.
If the Bible is right that there will come a day when the knowledge of God’s glory will cover the earth – when the Kingdom “rock cut out by non-human hands” will grow to become a “mountain that fills the earth” – then we aren’t going to be a minority at all. And coming home to join us will place you inside what is truly normal – not outside. The darkness can pretend it’s “normal” all it likes – but it lies. Its days are numbered; ours are not. If you are hungry for the way, the truth and the life … you know Who to go to.
If the original question is “What kind of ‘loving’ God would send people to hell?”, the answer could just be, “The kind that did everything possible to ensure that you don’t have to.”