My very savvy 7 year old asked me today what Hell was.
Can I just say that a. I’m glad he asked me b. I’m glad he didn’t have a concept yet
Because, I’m a Pastor and I’m always a little afraid of what is seeping into my child’s brain theologically
I have no doubt this query was prompted by The Corpse Bride.
Halloween is great, and I mean it. Its a way to conceptionalize and deal with fears of death and Hell.
Deep Theology going on.
I have a working concept of Hell.
Its like a hypothesis–in theory this concept has withstood my theological understanding and it works for me to understand life, the universe and everything
Its like a practical application concept. (By the way that’s what theology is…its a working concept of how you apply your faith/beliefs)
The Bible is mostly unclear about what Hell is. When mentioned in the Bible it often carries with it whatever the local culture thinks is the underworld.
My working concept of Hell is that it is that deepest darkest place in existence that has no love.
Not a shred.
Because to me, that is the most horrific concept ever….
And though God promises to be with us, no matter where we are–When we descend to Sheol, God promises to be with us, this does not mean we are able to feel God’s presence/love while we are there. (Romans 8)
When Jesus Christ goes to Hell, when he cries out “My God, My God, Why have you forsaken Me” I believe that Jesus Christ experiences the lonely heart-wrenching existence of no love.
The hows and the whys of Jesus Christ not being with God and Love when His very self is God and Love escape me, but the definition works for me. Because we all have times in our lives when we feel unloved.
When we feel alone, unloved, unlovely and unable to love.
““Is this Naomi?” She said to them, “Call me no longer Naomi, call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt bitterly with me. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty; why call me Naomi when the Lord has dealt harshly with me, and the Almighty has brought calamity upon me?” ” Ruth 1:19-21
Naomi feels this, she says, call me Mara, bitter. I exist in a place with no love.
Even if we aren’t actually alone or unloved.
These places and times are Hell for us. A visit into what happens when God is completely ignored and unaccepted in our lives.
On the other hand, it means that those who love, have seen the face of God.
Those who love experience joy and pleasure and beauty and understanding.
In this way, I believe that whether Hell is a physical place or not, it exists.
(For me it was Jr. High, when I hadn’t really any friends was horribly socially awkward, and for a while a group of bullies told me to shut up every time I spoke or laughed)
Have you experienced Hell?
It makes sense then the contrast of Hell is Heaven, a place of love, a place of family, a place of hope.
How many times have poets compared love to Heaven?
Love exists too, and if we are bringing the Kingdom of God to Earth, then we will be like Ruth. Following Naomi, loving her even when she can’t accept that love.
There are times in our lives when we are loved, and we can’t feel it. The entire stage of teenage-hood comes to mind. Where we are loved, but we feel like no one cares.
The important thing about love, though, is that its different from “fixing someone.” Because fixing someone isn’t permanent, but love can go on and on.
Those of us who are married know that no one is perfect, and we can’t fix them forever, that doesn’t actually happen, but we can still love them. I would argue that loving someone is the opposite of fixing them. Its going where they go, experiencing what they experience, and keeping with them.
Too often at church we forget and try to fix people. Often we can’t fix someone, or the fix is temporary or we don’t know how to fix them. We can however, love them. We can experience life with them and build the family of God. We can make sure no one gets left behind, or forgotten, and call one another brother and sister.
That’s why we do this church thing, so we can be together in Christ.
And he replied, ‘Who are my mother and my brothers?’ And looking at those who sat around him, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.’
Thanks to Chuck Goodman for the Ohana Lilo and Stitch reference