An Open Letter, To The People Sharing Open Letters To Those Writing About What’s Wrong With The Church

Wow, powerful article.

john pavlovitz

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If there’s anything spoiled, entitled Christians love to do, it’s tell other Christians how to feel and react, (well that, and be outraged at how they feel and react).  

Like the self-appointed cool kids in high school; deciding who makes the rules, who gets a voice, and who gets their books knocked to the ground in the hallway; they stand armed with computers and Scripture sound bites, always at the ready to shut down dissent and crush opposition whenever it begins to grow—in the name of Jesus.

They’re used to having the run of the campus, and they’ll use all sorts of tactics to keep it.

The bullies always will.

The truest thing about power, is that those with it are always most resistant to it ever changing hands. If the status quo has you on top of the mountain, you’ll fight like hell to hold that holy ground.

Whenever any corrupt…

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I can’t do it.

I just can’t. Something just isn’t right. I know this might rub some the wrong way. That isn’t my intention.
I’ve struggled with how to present these things for weeks, months even. I just can’t dictate the terms of unconditional “surrender” to “unbelievers” under threat of everlasting burning in hell. Something here just doesn’t add up.
Had I the power, I would save every single person from such a fate, and God is much more powerful than me. He is also much more loving, gracious, faithful, and merciful than I am. Placing him in the role of eternal tormentor just doesn’t make any sense, especially for beings he created knowing their fate in advance.
If I’m called to love my enemy, why couldn’t God love so much more than me, especially if my love for others flows from him?
If God never changes and his love is never ending, what causes him to change when our heart stops beating?
If God wins in the end, what are the terms of his winning? If he loves each and every one of his creations infinitely, than losing even one person to everlasting torment would mean he wasn’t all-powerful to save them.
If God’s will be done, how does that will get trumped by man’s?
How is it good news or love to repent under threat of everlasting torture?
Paul only mentions Hades once (that I can find) in that Jesus has defeated it (1 Cor 15:55).
Jesus mentions Hades in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (prior to Jesus claiming the keys to Hades and setting the captives free! Rev 1:18, Eph 4:8, Luke 4:18). He mentions Gehenna a handful of times which means the Valley of Hinnom. This was a valley that was often burning that originally hosted child sacrifices (by fire) and mass corpse burning after major wars. This was to perhaps warn of the judgment that was coming on Israel via the Romans in 66-70AD (see also Matthew 24 and my posts on that chapter if interested).
In addition, in all of the Old Testament, “hell” is not directly referenced. Mainly, only the word Sheol, meaning the grave, was translated to say hell in some versions of the Bible.
Why wasn’t God more adamant and clear about proclaiming hell in the Old Testament, through Jesus, or through the Apostle Paul?
All in all, what the Good News was about for the first 500 years of Christianity, and what it is still about today, is the message that all have been chosen for salvation. Jesus has paid the price for our sins and defeated death so we can live victorious lives now, in this world. We are enabled to have true joy and hope. We are enabled to truly love others without comparing ourselves to see if we are better at avoiding hell-fire based on our relative degree of sinfulness.
How can anyone tell a grieving family that their loved one is burning in hell forever?
How could anyone, especially God, live “happily ever after” in Paradise knowing that millions or even billions are endlessly suffering?
Is punishment for the benefit of those being punished or the one doing the punishing? How does God benefit from our corrective punishment, especially for all eternity?
I believe God is good. He is love. And he has a plan.
Being so hellbent on “good news” that teaches everlasting torment is just confusing to me. And it’s confusing to those hurting who are only heaped with guilt and shame instead of being shown the love Jesus exemplifies.

Resolution

2014 was quite a significant year. There was extreme hurt (the loss of my mom to cancer) and extreme joy (drawing exponentially closer to God than I’ve ever been led to believe was possible). As I look back, not only on the past year, but all the years, I’m constantly surprised to see God was there all along, even in the times I thought I was furthest from him.
God has transformed all the events of my life that I thought were mistakes into something beautiful. Moments and situations that I hated, I now only look back on with reverent awe at how God worked and how he changed me for the better. It’s like I retroactively cherish having lived my life with God (if that makes any sense). The difference is that I’m now seeing through new eyes and with a new heart.
Seeing how God has worked all along through my past gives me real hope for the future, and not just wishful thinking type hope. I don’t tend to think, “it’s been bad but will hopefully get better.” Instead I tend to think, “it’s been good, so I can have hope that it will continue to be.” I also have this kind of hope as I come across others in my everyday life. Even if I don’t have the abilities (yet) to reach out to some of them, I can almost “see” God with them and working for their good.
Before I began truly knowing God, I had a very distorted image of a wrathful being in the sky just waiting to strike someone dead who got too out of line. This was a very depressing way to live. Though I wouldn’t have worded it quite like this then, my heart use to be so full of hate. I hated those I was taught to hate who weren’t upholding God’s mandates as defined by those same “teachers.”
I mainly write this because this love relationship with God is something that I couldn’t even conceive of giving up because God has transformed me and has been removing hatefulness from my heart. Knowing a bit more about who God really is, I now live in abundant freedom. If I’m viewed by others as wrong, I really don’t want to be their version of right. If I’m viewed as being delusional for believing in God this way, it’s a delusion that I gladly endure because it has emptied the hatred I use to harbor for too many of God’s children. We often marginalize, reject, and despise our own siblings in Jesus for not conforming to our ideals instead of loving them where they’re at and letting God work in their lives.
If I had to make one resolution this year, it would be to stand up more for those who are so often made to believe they are worthless by society, and even, especially, by religion—to stand up for the marginalized like Jesus did. I want to be the kind of person that can accept with open arms anyone who is hurting and rejected and stand with them to share the pain of being hated. I’m learning this goes far beyond just giving soothing words, holding up a sign, or debating. This relies first and foremost on having an open, loving heart.
God, I know it’s a dangerous thing to ask, but give me the kind of courage to love others like that….no matter the cost.