Going to Hell

I recently participated in a Bible study class written by Beth Moore, called “Believing God.” I had read the book over the summer, and wanted to enter a weekday study with other seekers. Sunday church is not something that Gregg wants to attend, so I thought it would be a good idea for me to go during the week for worship, prayer and study with my sisters in Christ.
The class was offered by a local church, and open to the public.

This church is about as far to the right as any church I’ve entered, and I am way to the left of their theology (as stated on their website). However, I felt that, if we are all sisters in the faith, we could come together in the love of God and His Word, and find fellowship there.

It is simply amazing to me that there are so many, vastly different belief systems and doctrines under the one umbrella called Christianity. It was an eye-opening experience to take this class in this environment; we heard the same message week by week, yet we interpreted it completely differently. Though some of the ladies were very kind, it was clear to me that I did not fit into their mould, and never would.

I eventually found that the class was depressing me. Not Beth Moore’s teaching, which I loved, but the host church’s interpretation and presentation of the Biblical themes. Please do not misunderstand: I am thankful that I was welcome to join this class, and I am thankful to the church and its members for providing it. I just did not feel comfortable with their view of God, man, creation and our mission and purpose for existing.

This is not to suggest that I am “right” and they are “wrong.” These are my sisters in Christ, and they are living their belief system with integrity – an admirable thing. I just didn’t see the JOY, FREEDOM – and most importantly, the unconditional LOVE – of God in it. The further into the class we went, the more I missed those essential elements, and the darker it seemed.

I’ve been wondering about the concept of hell lately, probably because of the time I spent in this church, listening to their views.

Those of us who feel we’ve already seen hell, or lived there, seem to have no need to create or believe in another, later-destination version of it. Those who have experienced hell seem to want to bring heaven to earth as much as possible, with love, kindness, ministry, compassion, forgiveness, healing and tenderness. Those who speak and express the most concern about hell (as a place one might go after death) make me wonder if they really live in daily fear of it – and wonder if they’ve ever truly suffered here in this life, or are simply braced against it.

In my opinion, if you’ve already been there, hell is no longer an intellectual construct, a doctrine or a place to be sent after death, but a reality of this broken world that cries out for redeeming, here and now. It is illness, decay, depression, death, the suffering of mankind…what could be more hellish than those?

I wonder if we aren’t actually called – each one of us – to “go to hell” here in this life, and to come out of it with a heart transformed. That seems to be one way of looking at the Paschal pattern. To be frank, it’s one of the only ways that I can make sense of the past six years of my life.

I love God deeply, but experience has made me a bit wary of what He allows, as the price is so very high – it’s everything! (Yes, I am mid-life, flawed, and still not totally surrendered to Him.) Yet what other option and relationship do we have? “Lord, to whom shall we go?” He is the One – the Way, the Truth, the Life, the great source of Love – our Creator.

I truly desire to serve Him and participate in His work of love in this world; it’s the only life worth living anymore. I prefer to see it as bringing a bit of His kingdom – heaven – into the present time and place, rather than fearing a possible hell in the future.

What do you think about heaven and hell? Are they here and now, in the hereafter, neither, or both?

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