Whenever I hear of a story where someone loses their job or has to apologize or is investigated for saying someone or some particular group of people is going to hell, I scratch my head and wonder what all the fuss is about.
One of the charges against Mormons is that they lie. My response, “I know.” We also cheat, steal, murder, and commit adultery. As far as humans go, we pretty much suck.
But that goes for everyone. Everyone sucks. We all do things that are bad. What is the point of discussing degrees of bad-ness when it’s obvious we’re all suck together? As Jesus said, “Why do you try to help the man with a speck of dust in his eye, when you have a beam of wood in your own?” So I can honestly state that those people around me whom I see their suckiness are frankly a reminder that I have more suckiness than they do, hidden deep within.
When the prophets came to Israel in ancient times to remind the people of their sins, the people would occasionally listen but usually ignore them, or worse, they’d prove their point by murdering the prophets. The prophets were, of course, correct: Israel had sinned, God was ready to punish them, and the punishment was going to be something bad. God promised never to punish Israel without first sending a promise, so in a way, prophets ended up being that token reminder, like a parent who says, “I will spank you good and sound if you don’t clean your room in the next ten minutes.”
I often wondered what the sins they spoke out against were. In one case, Isaiah railed on Israel because they were fasting with sackcloth and ashes, and forgetting to feed the poor! On the grand scale of sins, I think that sin is much preferable to the sins I stand accused of in God’s eyes. If that were my worst fault, I would be a happy man indeed. And yet, it was enough to cause God to send a prophet to boldly declare the sins of Israel, for all the world to see. There was a wrath intended for those who couldn’t keep even that higher law of the fast.
Yes, we’re going to hell. We are all going to hell, everyone, because we are ignorant, foolish, hard-hearted, sinful idiots who take pleasure in spurning our God. You’re going to hell, I’m going to hell, the guy over there is going to hell, and that woman over there is going to hell.
Of course, to a Christian (and to a Jew) this is only the beginning of the path to repentance. I don’t like that word as much as the phrase “turning away from your sins.” See, ultimately, God really doesn’t care what we did to sin in the first place. He wants us to turn back to him every time we do sin. He wants us to replace our sinful natures with his eternal good nature. As long as we can accomplish that, who cares what our past sin was?
When I hear someone condemn Mormons for some general sin, or when I hear someone tell me I’m going to hell individually, I take it personally. I allow myself to be humiliated in that way. I turn to God and ask if he will forgive me, and ask for his guidance and assistance in allowing him to change my nature to be more like his. In a way, having someone tell me I am going to hell is the start of something beautiful, the manure before the garden bloom, so to speak.
Every time I turn to my God in my sins, and ask that he rescue me from my sins, and put forth my best effort to accept his help, then I find a wonderful blissful peace awaiting me as I realize that he has frankly forgiven me from my sins. That’s a beautiful moment, a moment where I always wish to grab the person who warned me of sin and shake their hand for rescuing my soul from hell. That’s a moment I do not experience when I think I am doing ok.
As Christians, the call to repentance is a call born of love, or it should be. We should not desire that anyone, not even murderers, should end up in hell. We should do everything we can to help people turn their hearts to God and realize the divine gift of forgiveness. We have a perfect example, the Lord Jesus Christ, in accomplishing this divine mission. Yes, he warned the sinners, and didn’t even tolerate the slightest flaw in anyone around him, but he also knew that only through perfect love and faith could anyone hope to be drawn out of their error, and was quick to forgive those who sincerely petitioned for it.
Those Christians who utter the phrase, “You’re going to hell,” outside of the spirit I described above, are not operating in the way the Lord had told us to operate. And so, they themselves are going to hell. Try that next time someone says you are going to hell. “I know I am going to hell. No unclean thing can live with God, so we’re all going to hell. What are we going to do about it?”
I don’t know what the point is in trying to punish those who utter that phrase in the wrong spirit is, either. Are we not the man with the beam of wood in his eye trying to pluck a grain of sand from theirs? Or are we worse, trying to put a beam in their eye that looks a lot like the beam in our own, thinking that we are all fine and none of us at all are going to hell? Let it not be so.