Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Ephesians 1 (aside): Let's let everyone into heaven!

Many people say that a god who will not forgive everyone isn’t worthy of worship. I particularly like this version: A god who's not “at least as compassionate as me” isn't worth serving. These folks think that eventually everyone will end up in heaven.

Frankly I think a heaven created by such a god would be just too much for me. Just think about the people you’d have to keep apart. Alexander the Great would tease Hitler because, after all the trouble he went through, he didn’t even conquer the world. Stalin and Mao Zedong would raz Hitler because they killed a lot more people and ruled much larger empires. And then Pol Pot would whine that, after all the people he killed, all he really got to run was a dinky little 3rd world country with little in the way of wealth or weapons. But then this whole bunch would form a clique and call Jeffrey Dahmer and Charles Manson “the lightweights.”

Some would say, of course, that these folks wouldn’t make it into their envisioned heaven, but that would be because they don’t see that a god who forgives everyone can’t very well hold Hitler’s sins against him and a god who holds Hitler’s sins against him will have to judge everyone else by a consistent standard as well. Even as lenient a standard as simply doing what we know we shouldn’t would leave us all habitual offenders with thousands of stains on our souls.

The truth is that we don't like to talk about God punishing sin largely because we don't understand sin. Sin is, first and foremost, rebellion against God. No, lying is not just as bad as murder, but lying is rebellion just like murder. We live in a universe created by a holy God. In ages past, Satan convinced untold legions of angels to join him in rebelling against God. He then convinced Adam to do the same, and that sin stained Adam and became an innate tendency to rebel against God that was passed on to each of his descendents. Every sin we commit is joining in Satan's rebellion, and so our sin joins us to Satan's fate.

To those who don’t like the idea of hell, I say that God doesn’t like it either. That’s why He gave us a way out. In His incomprehensible mercy, God has chosen to provide us, at a very high price, a way to avoid joining Satan in the consequences of his rebellion. He has offered us clemency, but it is on His terms. If we try to dictate the terms of His clemency, we only further spit in His face, we only persist in our rebellion.

But if we lay down our arms and accept His gift, He has offered to cast our sins into a sea of forgetfulness. And not only that, He has offered to adopt us as His very own children! That is a God worth serving!

More on Ephesians 1

1 comment:

Danny Wright said...

I understand what you're saying. There seems to be peace with paradox in modern thinking. When JFK Junior died, I asked a coworker if she thought he went to heaven or hell. She said heaven. I asked why and she said because he was a pretty good person. I then asked if she thought Hitler went to heaven and of course she said no. I tried to drive home the fact that there is a line between the two and challenged her to consider which side she was on. Of course I lost her when I began to speak of the line being Jesus himself. She clung to nothing-her righteousness-in order to reject everything-His.