justice, restoration and hell

I like controversial topics.

The controversy is fun. I like the mental experiences of debating. Looking at a problem from a mix of perspective and possibilities. Probing the idea, looking for cracks and inconsistencies.

It’s just fun for me.

Wow, does that sound sad. Please pray for me.

It’s not as hot a topic as it once was in so many circles but it’s one that will never go away and is once again coming up.

What do we as Christians believe about hell?

It’s a topic I’m seeing more and more of as we are faced daily with atrocities around the world. The beheading of 21 Christians by ISIS brought it back to the fore front. What would happen to those who murdered our Christian brothers?

The discussion quickly turns from what will, because truly no one knows, to what we think should happen. What does a just God do with this type of horror? What does God’s perfect and holy justice look like?

Before we can talk about God’s justice I think it’s wise to take a step back and look at ourselves.

What is our version of justice?

Justice for us is punishment. It’s punitive and it’s harmful. We like our justice to be a deterrent. We lock up offenders for years and say justice has been served. They deserve it. Actions have consequences and the consequents of grievous actions need a punishment that fits the crime.

My question then – is our justice the same as God’s justice? When God calls Himself just what kind of justice does he mean?

God is just and will bring about His justice. Since the only way we often think of justice is in the punitive, deterrent type we expect the same of God. We expect God’s justice to be like ours.

We expect God to be like us. In that context hell makes a load of sense. It’s the ultimate punishment for the ultimate crime of rejecting God.

If you murder someone, we want you locked away. We want you to suffer the way that the family suffers. And sadly this is a collective we, because we as a society continue to reinforce this with our politics and practices in the prison system. While I or you individually may not agree our society firmly states that it does.

Justice is served when that monster is behind bars and rotting.

It curious to me the type of language we use to describe criminals.



The one they are not is a person.

But God sees people. God loves everyone. So how does he see criminals? How does he see those who have wronged him? What does his justice look like?

We’ll how did God see us? What did he do while we were still sinners?

God is about restoring. God calls us to be agents of that restoration.

Resorting creation.

Restoring relationships.

Resorting the image of God that is inside of all of us.

If so much of what Jesus does is restorative why would his justice be any different?

Remember we are becoming more like Christ, not the other way around. And while this seems so obvious saying it is almost ridiculous. That is until we expect God to act like we would. Especially when that actions isn’t rooted in love.

I wonder if the way we expect God to enact his justice is a reflection of the bible, the person of Jesus and the love that he embodies or is it us putting our desires, expectations and wants for justice on our terms on God?

I don’t know to be honest, but hell as it’s often described sounds a lot more like somewhere you’d send a monster you hate than a person you love.


3 thoughts on “justice, restoration and hell

  1. hi
    You might want to look at Dr John Stackhouse’s recent thoughts on this

    Recently I had a subtle but profound change of perspective when I looked at the “Day of the Lord” passage in Malachi differently. As the day of Judgement and wrath it is terrifying – but as the Day of the Revelation of God’s glory it takes on a whole new cast. What would I do in the face of the glory of God but drop prostrate on the floor. Who COULD stand? Would the purifying brightness of that glory not burn out all that is less than Christlike in me? I found myself not fearing that day but longing for it
    Just some thoughts

    • It’s a really interesting idea. I was reading something earlier today that talks about the idea that God punishes no one but that those who choose to reject him will be tormented by bitter regret. The love of God doesn’t change but rather how we respond to it.

  2. Pingback: a hateful God | love.grow.serve


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