Father, forgive me for I have sinned,
I have spent the last four years of my life wondering if there is such a thing as Hell. I don’t mean bad times or traumatic experiences, but a place of eternal torture where ‘unbelievers’ go after they die. I have thought about this because I have many friends who do not consider themselves Christians and have told me that they do not believe that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world. Does this unbelief condemn them to everlasting damnation? Does the fact that they choose not to put their trust in Jesus mean that they have to live without him forever? That no matter how kind, considerate, loving, or supportive they are, or how much their actions actually mimic Jesus in everyday life, they cannot get to heaven unless they consciously accept his sacrifice?
I decided two years ago that this could not be the answer. If Jesus loved the whole world so much that he was willing to sacrifice himself on our behalf, there could not be such a place as Hell, at least not how we imagine. There could be no endless torment or a fire that constantly burned but never destroyed. God is too gracious and merciful to create something like that. At the very least, as I told my best friend, if we are to call ourselves “Christians,” we must pray that the Hell we imagine does not exist; for if claim that we love our neighbors as ourselves just as Jesus commands us to, then we could never wish for someone to experience such an agonizing existence. We must hope beyond hope that those who have not repented of their sins will be redeemed and rescued by the God who is love.
Father, forgive me for I have sinned.
I was willing to believe this: in fact, I was ready to forgive those who seemed unreachable and unlovable. I could forgive adulterers, liars, thieves, aggressors, drug dealers, and criminals of every kind and I was prepared to love them just as Christ loved us. I would befriend and care for all people, regardless of race, sex, class, sexual orientation, or any other dividing factor and try to see things from their perspective. I tried to not use the terms “us” and “them” because I believed that we are all humans created in the Image of God. In my eyes, we were all sinners but we were never too far away from God that we could not be reached. We were broken, yes, but we could all be fixed through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. As MercyMe puts it, “No matter the bumps; no matter the bruises; no matter the scars, still the truth is the cross has made you flawless.” Indeed, I believed that the cross and the resurrection of Christ from the dead had the power to make us all flawless one day.
Then I saw videos from what happened in Charlottesville. Not only did I see videos of the gatherings, but I watched interviews with prominent members of the “alt-right” community. I listened to the chants and the calls of many for an “ethnic cleansing:” that they actually believed that white men were superior to all other races. I watched the video of a Dodge Challenger, my favorite car, drive headlong into a crowd of people, injuring many and killing Heather Heyer. Then I watched as white nationalists and KKK members defended the attack and saw nothing inherently wrong with it.
The worst part is: many of them do these things under the name of Jesus.
Forgive me, my Savior, for I have sinned.
It was in this moment that for the first time in my entire life, I wished there was a Hell. I had heard many stories of Hitler and the Nazi regime, but never had I seen something so abhorrent with my very eyes. This worldview is not an accident: it is the deliberate choice of a chosen few who honestly believe that their lives are the epitome of earthly existence: that they are the only ones created in the Image of God. They worship this twisted image by using violence to destroy those who stand in their way and by trying to silence other voices so that only theirs can be heard. They use their privilege to stand on top of others and demand them to conform to the way that they believe society should be. And after all of this, they say amen! If there is such a thing as the unforgivable sin, this should be it.
Theirs is a god who angrily stands against those who oppose him.
Theirs is a god who brings “justice” with a bloody sword.
Theirs is a god who is eagerly anticipating when all sinners will be cast into the fiery lake.
Forgive me Father, for I hope they are right.
I hope that there is a place where they can feel the same agony that those who they oppress have felt. I hope there is a place where God refuses to dwell because he is so disgusted with those who have despised and rejected his good creation. I hope there is a place where they will see that God stands against them because he is with the marginalized and the broken. I hope they will feel his bloody sword and that they will know it is the same one they used to kill the Lamb. I hope that there is a fiery lake for them to be cast into and I hope the flames burn away their sin until they can at last see the error of their ways.
Then I will hope they will run to the Lamb and beg for his forgiveness and salvation. I will hope that they fall on their faces in front of those they persecuted. I will hope that they use their tears to wash the feet of their victims. I will hope that the love which has redeemed the oppressed will shine on the face of the oppressors.
And I will hope that they are forgiven.
That they are redeemed.
That they are rescued.
That they are embraced in love by all.
But right now? I want a place of fire and agony where unbelievers go after they die.
Father forgive me, because I hope and pray that Hell exists.