This may be wildly inaccurate.
It probably is, but I’m ok with that.
I’m not a theologian. I don’t make claims to be. But this idea has been rattling around in my head and even if it’s not theologically perfect, the lens it creates is amazing.
So I’m going to share it. The idea comes from Brian Zahnd, who by the way knows his stuff.
He recently wrote a brilliant blog called “sinners in the hands of a loving God”
In that he wrote:
“But the deeper truth is that we are more punished by our sins than for our sins.”
And this idea is challenging and changing so much for me. I just see implications everywhere.
At its core the idea speaks to our concept of judgement.
Is God’s judgment angry and spiteful or perhaps the outcomes of our choices? Is His judgment the obvious consequence of making choices that aren’t loving, the greatest of which is it leads us away from him? The more we chose to act out of hate, violence, and self-serving motives the further we are from Christ? The further we are from community, from our truest self?
Is there a worse punishment than to be further and further from the source? And every step we take in sin isn’t that what we’re doing? Leavening Christ for something we think is better, turning our back on him and searching for what the world offers elsewhere. Creating idols and searching for resonances and meaning in all the wrong places.
When I choose to be filled with hate and then find myself alone and bitter, isn’t that God’s judgment?
When I place myself first over and over find no one around when I need someone to love me, isn’t that God’s judgement?
When I use my power to oppress and harm isn’t there always someone with a little more power and little more desire to harm? Is it not an obvious outcome that a system that sees people as commodities and resources will eventually see you as a resource and more specifically one it no longer needs?
But it’s more than just how we view consequences in the here and now.
It can completely cripple the idea that Jesus sends us to hell.
I wonder, is hell closer to being a place we build for ourselves and choose to live in than one we are banished to by our all loving God. If over and over and over we reject the way of love and move into a place of darkness, I think we understand that it will have consequences. And since God won’t override our free will, it seems as though he would leave us there if that’s what we want, no matter how much is pains him.
Why would an all loving God create hell in the first place? What if he didn’t?
Maybe those endowed with creativity and the ability to create, corrupted by greed, pride and hate used their creativity to build something wholly new. Something just for them. Something that stands in direct opposition to God and his plan. Something based in the power of this world and the corrupt desires of their heart. A place of pain, oppression, darkness, and torment.
Doesn’t hell sound like the places we build every time we take judgment into our own hands, every time we try to act as God? Our dehumanizing correctional system is hell. Is it so farfetched to think that the places we build with our hands, from our creativity, end up being representations of our hearts and look like the place we’ve built for our souls to reside?
The ability for humans to constantly create hell on earth for each other speaks to the state of our souls.
Perhaps spiritual and physical hell are all our creation.
Maybe, rather than being sent there, we walk there on their own. Choosing it over and over. Brick by brick building our own prison.
Our sin has consequences and God’s judgment is real.
But perhaps its less lightning bolts and eternal damnation and far more a grieving parent thinking “I wish I’d found a way to reach them before consequences did.”