by Maeve McDonald
In a conversation I had with an unbeliever recently, the difficult subject of Hell came up that makes most Christians cringe, including me. He respectfully put forth the notion that the concept of Hell is inconsistent with that of a loving God. He followed up quite poignantly with the question: “So is Gandhi in Hell, for example?” This is a challenging question, because it “puts skin on,” or lends a layer of personal identity to, the issue; when we are confronted with the idea of an actual person we know, love, or respect being eternally lost, the idea is harder to accept. On an emotional level, we don’t want to believe that “good” people go to Hell.
As Paul outlined in his letter to the Ephesians, however, salvation cannot be earned: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Eph. 2:8-9). Jesus clearly taught that the only way to everlasting life in Heaven was through following Him, plainly stating: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6). Gandhi rejected Christ and–while only God knows the condition of a person’s heart–we know this leads to Hell.
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We may shrink away from discussing Hell with unbelievers, but Jesus, on the other hand, broached the subject frequently during His ministry, referring to it 23 times as recorded in the Gospels. This illustrates the reality and true gravity of eternal separation from God if we reject the gift of Christ’s atoning sacrifice.
As uncomfortable as the subject of Hell may make us, the reality of it should give us a sense of urgency in spreading the Gospel. All believers are commanded to take part in the Great Commission (Matt. 28:16-20) and spread the Good News about Jesus as Savior in our neighborhoods and to the ends of earth (Acts 1:8). This was the last thing Jesus urged His disciples to do right before His ascension.
Another topic that makes us squirm is that of homosexuality. As Christians, we are called to go against the cultural tide when it comes to sexual purity and many of us shy away from addressing the topic because of this. Paul, however, was forthright in his treatment of sexual immortality, including homosexuality; he stated unequivocally, “do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” (1 Cor 6:9-10). Clearly, sin is serious in the eyes of God.
Our children are growing up in a new era in which Christianity is more counter-cultural than ever before…