by Amanda Reardon, Captain –
God gets blamed for lots of things. We like to hold him responsible for things that we do or other people do. Choices we make. It’s funny, I don’t think too many of us would be willing to relinquish God’s gift of free will, and yet when free will allows us to make a mess of things, we want to point the finger at God.
One of the things for which God is frequently blamed is sending people to hell. It’s a real stumbling block for many people. “How can a loving God send good people to hell?” they want to know. As I see it, God doesn’t send anyone to hell. In fact, since the beginning of human history, God has been in the business of saving people from hell.
Before Christ came, God had a plan for salvation that involved repentance and sacrifice. It wasn’t only for Jews. Anyone who turned to the one true God could be saved. Then, in the fullness of time, the matchless Savior came.
The final and perfect sacrifice. What more could God have possibly done than offer up his own son for us?
God is a holy God, unable to tolerate sin in his presence. He is completely pure. Our sin has severed us from God. Death sends those who are still lost in sin to a place completely devoid of God—a place we call hell. It’s a miserable place because there isn’t the slightest trace of God and his holiness there. There is no love, because God is love. There is no joy, because God brings joy. There is no peace, because God is the source of peace.
But God doesn’t want us separated from himself, in this life or the next! And so he offers salvation, freely, to everyone. He extends his grace and begs us to take it.
Romans 5:8 says: “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” The same chapter tells us that “we were reconciled to him through the death of his son” and that we “shall be saved through his life.” Can anyone even imagine any greater expression of love, and any greater effort to bring us back into relationship with him? Anyone who accepts his saving act is “covered by the blood”—which means that God doesn’t see us as sinners anymore, he sees us as people who have been washed clean through the sacrifice Christ made. And with that status, we are welcome to enjoy fellowship with him here on earth, and eventually in Heaven.
No, God doesn’t want to send good people to hell. He wants to save them. He provided everything we need, at great personal cost. All we have to do is choose him.
A couple of years ago I saw a teenager wearing a t-shirt bearing a symbol that is a logo for a popular band. The shirt had a large white cross on it, with a red circle around the cross and a red line striking through it—you know the kind of sign, it’s a refusal of whatever is in the middle of the circle. The message is, say “no” to the cross. To me, it’s unfathomable. “No thanks, Lord of the universe. I reject your immense sacrifice; I balk at your immeasurable love.”
There are those who curse the cross. There are those who scratch their heads at it. But it’s so simple. God won’t send you to hell, but you can send yourself. All you have to do is reject what’s freely offered. But why would you want to do that?