Scared to Life
“Whoever believes on him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already…” (John 3:18, NIV 1984).
I was seeing him for his third melanoma. Each one before had been cured by surgery and this one was also likely to turn out well. He looked at me and remarked, “It was the first one that really frightened me.” His wife added, “But, it brought him to the Lord.” “That’s wonderful,” I said. “Yep, it scared the hell out of him.”
Not a bad thing, when something “scares the hell out of you.” As Blaise Paschal put it in his Pensees, “Being annihilated or wretched for eternity” is in all of our futures unless we are radically changed.
Modern folk don’t like to use the word “hell” because somehow in their minds it conflicts with the love of God. They get the impression that hell is the place God sends us when He doesn’t like something we did, which is not fair, since we are clearly better than Pol Pot or Stalin. They think our God throws folks into hell because we do more bad than good—and a loving God shouldn’t do that.
The truth is, we don’t need to be thrown into hell. Hell is the default mode for humans; it is our natural destination. Our human nature, our spiritual DNA, turned us away from God thousands of years ago in the garden; and we are now born destined for death like all other humans. So many people get it wrong: Christ is here to save us from that destiny, not to toss us into the flames. Christ offers the hand that pulls us away from our natural destination, not the hand that throws us where we would not naturally go.
The religions of the world, since the beginning of time, have been fighting to find a way for mankind to avoid our natural destination. But no religion can. Working hard to escape “our annihilation or wretchedness” with our spiritual DNA mutated by sin just won’t work, as hard as many try. Changing direction from hell to heaven requires a spiritual transformation that can only come when we accept Christ into our lives. Then we are changed; then we are new creatures; then we become children of God; then we leave our old destination behind.
Sometimes, to find the Christ who transforms, we need something to “scare the hell out of us.” More often, we need someone to “love the hell out of us” as they introduce us to the Savior.
Jesus did not come to cast us into hell because we are bad. We were born bad, with death as our destination. We can still choose to go there. Jesus comes to transform our hearts to where we are good again and we can then swap out hell for a home with Him forever.
Thank you for your hand of love, though scarred, that pulls me from my natural destination.