Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The Hell Factor

What if the threat of hell no longer existed?  Would there be any point of spreading the message of Christ?

It’s a question worth asking because frankly, hell just doesn’t scare people anymore. And maybe that’s okay, because sustained fear is not a great motivator.  Oh it’s good for the short term urgent stuff, like running from wild rhinos, but on a daily basis it doesn’t work so well. In fact it makes us crazy and if it gets bad enough we go to the doctor for medication. 

It certainly doesn’t inspire nobility. 

Think about it. Do the following statements really make any sense?

I’m going to feed the hungry, tend the sick, and love my neighbor because I don’t want to go to hell. 

I sing joyful hymns to God because I don’t want to go to hell.

In prayer, I share the depths of my soul with God because I don’t want to go to hell. 

It doesn't surprise me that our society turns a deaf ear to a fear-based religious message. And that’s a problem because avoiding hell has always been our big selling point. If people aren’t motivated by fear anymore, why become a Christian?

“Okay Pastor. If there is no fear of hell, what motivates people?”

Great question. Glad you asked. Consider the following as a partial reply:

How about finding wholeness where you experience the full activation of your being? How about trading self-indulgent misery for adventurous living for the sake of goodness?  How about finding a strength that sustains you even when you feel your weakest?   How about finding hope and values that guide you? How about living in a Presence that completes us, unites us, and heals us?

Is all this laid at your feet the moment you accept Christ into your heart? Well, no. But the path is set before you. And you can leave certain baggage behind, one of which is fear of hell.   

"There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love." (1 John 4:18).


  1. I remember our oldest daughter sobbing in my arms because some well meaning person at a church in town told her that she would go to hell if she held hands with a boy. She was 16 and had her first boyfriend.
    I tried to reassure her, as did my husband, but what bothers me most about that incident is that in some ways, I think it poisoned her.
    When she recovered from her fear, she was angry then cold to church. I felt she had been robbed of the ability to discover the beauty of Christ's message with an open heart.
    I think you are absolutely correct, Pastpr, if we can look past the fear, we can see what Jesus intended to teach in his short time among us.
    Thanks for addressing this topic, it is not something I have ever heard clergy discuss in such terms.

    1. Debbie, it makes me very angry that someone wounded your child. What a mean and controlling thing to do.

      It was kind of crazy, too. This person was perhaps revealing his/her own sexual hangups.

      I think people often use religion as a tool justify their mental illness, to control others, and inflict harm. A lot of meanness is done in the name of the church. The church has a lot to answer for, but I don't know that it's always responsible for the evil that individuals do.