There Is No Hell

When we project an appetite for vengeance on God, we pervert the divine image.

BY: the Rev. Forrest Church

 

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It’s no wonder that hell is the watchword for religious terror. By tempting the darker angels of our nature, the very idea of it undermines the principles of mercy and forgiveness. You don’t have to be a terrorist to be crippled by the idea of hell, however. Couple "Not to worry, for God will punish her eternally" to the sound adage, "Hate the sin and love the sinner," and it becomes a noxious bromide.

 

It is impossible to hate a person and pray for him at the same time. Visualize in your mind someone who causes you profound pain. Remind yourself that your enemy is a child of God. If that doesn’t break the spell, remember (and not with a smirk on your face) that he too will die one day. Then do something truly godlike. Pray that before your enemy dies, he will experience a taste of true peace and happiness.

Loving our enemies demands sacrifice (a word that means, "to make sacred"). We sacrifice self-righteousness, bitterness, and pride, knowing that such an act will cleanse our souls and make our lives right with all that is holy. At our most reverent, having resisted the temptation to damn our enemy to hell, we go one step further and pray for her immortal soul. We try to be perfect, as God in heaven is perfect.

If, following Jesus’ lead, we open ourselves to the workings of grace when we forgive our enemies, how could God imaginably entertain a plan of selective redemption based on a retributive justice system with no possibility for parole? If we, mere humans, can unlock our hearts by praying for someone who has inflicted unforgettable damage on us, would God damn to eternal hellfire every creature who has failed life’s course?

God may not actually be love—the mystery of creation is too deep for human equivalents to approximate—but we know from experience and the spirit of the scriptures that love is divine.

None of us is too good to be damned, but God is too good and too loving to damn us. There is no hell.

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