I wish the church would just go to hell.
Into the deepest depths of hell, in fact. Not just the surface level, but down into the white hot flames, the most painful, excruciating places.
Where the suffering is intense. Where people come to curse the Lord with as much fervor that could otherwise be mistaken for worship.
Where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Where death is reality. Where darkness rules.
Church: one of the few entities on earth that has a core message potentially worth living and dying for. Light of the world. Salt of the earth. Unconditional love. That is when it doesn’t get bogged down with selfishness, superiority, or cynicism.
We should be convinced that life is not about acquisition – that living generously is a better way to live. Giving food to the hungry or resourcing the poor is not an obligation or a chore or a bullet point on a job description. Our intended trajectory away from greed and self-centeredness is counter-cultural and inspiring.
Rob Bell, in Velvet Elvis, says that one of the worst things to have happened to the Christian faith is the movement towards heaven and hell being some distant places – separated from our day to day experience. It leads to us wanting to escape this planet that must be void of God, in this scenario. Our trajectory becomes about saving our souls from eventual damnations and more about ME spending forever in bliss and satisfaction.
Instead, heaven and hell are present realities. Eternity started on day one. Hell is right here right now. It’s the mother who can’t feed her children. It’s the pain of loss. It’s disease. It’s ridicule and bullying and genocide.
You want to get to heaven…. bring it.
Jesus didn’t leave some mystical land to come to our neutral ground to persuade people to be good so they can ride the salvation express to heaven. He came, himself, and brought heaven with him – by healing and feeding, by turning people’s hearts in a different direction, and by turning water into wine.
I want the church to go to hell, too. I want people to see the comparison – to consider the alternative.
I want people to understand that heaven isn’t about walking streets of gold and wearing sparkling white robes.
Heaven is about the tears and pain and the bruises that come before restoration. It’s about hard-core, unabashed love that doesn’t ask questions or require any thing besides your being. It’s about getting rid of the darkness by shining in s spark of light – not about pointing out how dark hell is.
Heaven is what moves in when hell is pushed out.
But you can’t push hell out of the picture from the sidelines. You can’t feed hungry people if you don’t go where the hungry people are. You can’t build relationships by sitting on your couch.
What a hellish perspective then to celebrate “some glad morning” when we all will “fly away.” For those who think that trying to live like Jesus is the best way to live, it seems counter intuitive that God would have his people fleeing the scene. Who’s left to advocate for those with no voice? To feed those with no food? To visit those with no friends? To give hope to those who have nothing to look forward to?
So, I’m done with the halo envy.
I’m done with looking forward to my mansion and streets of gold and diamond harp.
If there’s no more hope or love or happiness today than there was yesterday then we’re all missing something. If we’re living as if this place is doomed, then we’ve screwed up big time. If you’re not concerned about replacing hell here and now with heaven here and now, then we are diluting the redemptive message that Jesus was supposed to be all about.
Jesus example, if we believe it, says that being concerned that someone’s stomach isn’t full is at least as important as the state of their soul. It shows that aiming towards emotional maturity is at least as important as aiming towards spiritual maturity. He tries to convince us tax collectors, and prostitutes aren’t the wrong crowd.
Jesus didn’t seem to think that going to hell was such a bad idea.
In fact, it was probably the most important thing He ever did.