Without a constant fear of hell, it freed the characters in these stories to be present with people rather than live in constant anxiety. When I began to step away from my belief that hell was a real destination that people go to, it freed me from having to constantly self monitor my sin quotient. It turned my attention from a primarily selfish sense of survival and towards an ability to see and appreciate the beauty of creation all around me.
As much as getting a mansion on the hillside is compelling, the idea of spending eternity worshipping a God who is selectively compassionate towards the people who are supposed to be his children is more than a little off-putting. Much more compelling is the idea that God is the ultimate expression of love and inclusion – that there is limitless grace and mercy – that God welcomes people whether they spent his riches on hookers and booze or not.
It’s painful – absolutely. Grief can sometimes feel like death, but it is also a sign that you’re alive. When your God dies, grief is your bodies way of telling you this was an important relationship, take some time to learn from it and to allow what it meant to you to settle in somewhere deep. Inside, your mind is already doing the work of reorganizing your attachments, keeping the things that make sense, and making room for brand new ideas.
I wonder if this is what is meant by the idea of eternal life. All of us will live on to some degree – the legacy we leave will continue in conversation and consequence for years to come. Jesus’ legacy appears to be so impactful that he continues to find his way into people’s heads, thousands of years later.
A friend recently asked about why people elevate the Bible to such a high place of respect. Why was it so important that millions of people use it as the basis of their faith? Why not take direction for life from a Shakespeare play or poems by Rumi? He said it just seems like an arbitrary decision. I thought it was a great question.