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.

Monsters.

Predators.

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.

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redemption

Last week’s posts have been more out there than most of my stuff. Not a ton of practical stuff, more ideas. I think this will be the last one. We talked about what holds us back in the past but I thought it was such an appropriate time to talk about why we try to live the way we do.

This is about what I think the one of the biggest meanings of Easter is and more than that what the cross was about. Surprise, surprise I think it ties directly to compassion.

I suspect that if you’ve been involved with church for any period of time, you’ve heard a lot about why Jesus died.

He died for you and for me. He died so you could be saved from your sins. He died so you could avoid hell and live in heaven.

While perhaps not wrong this way of seeing Easter misses the true breadth of what happened.

I think it’s soooo much bigger than just you or just me.

I think the real purpose of it all is Jesus calling us into His holistic redemption.  We are now able to be a part of the redemption of EVERYTHING.

The message of the cross is redemption for everything and everyone and we get to be a part of it.

That’s why we get to share God’s love and grace in everything we do. That’s why we get to dive into the messiness of people’s lives. That’s why we get to open our lives to others, darkness and all.

Because we are a part of the redemption of everything. We don’t have to do these things, we get to.

Jesus didn’t come to save you from hell. Jesus came so you can be a part of Him redeeming everything.

If you don’t think that’s compassion then I feel like you and I are talking about two very different things.