I was listening on the radio today a person talking about believing in hell. He asked if the listener believes in hell, and if the answer was yes, then than meant that the listener had to make an important decision about Jesus. In other words, if I believe that hell exists, then believing in Jesus becomes crucial. I just shook my head in disbelief and changed the station. Does this mean that I must believe in the Gospel of Jesus simply because not doing so will guarantee an eternal damnation in hell? This leads me to follow Jesus out of fear, not out of love. I understand the concept of the consequence of not choosing to believe in God and living as if God does not exist. I believe that a Godless life must be really miserable. But teaching that believing in Jesus is important because it prevents me from going to eternal damnation is a twisted message.
Jesus is about unconditional love. He did talk about those that will be judged because they chose to live wicked lives. But the main message , the main purpose about Jesus is simply to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. The Gospels started talking about loving others, being humble, fighting for righteousness, forgiving, and having a pure heart more than it talked about avoiding hell. I guess the real message of love that Jesus taught is not chosen frequently because it may not motivate people as hell does. Fear can move people quicker than love can. I don’t know for sure. But the reality is that many Christians use the scare tactics to motivate people to follow their doctrines, not Jesus. It is sad. It reminds me of telemarketing. You hear a lot of messages like “Use our products and you will get rid of the wrinkles” (avoid the reminder of aging) or “Try us for a month and you will lose 50 pounds!” (avoid obesity which threatens our lives) or “Try our product and you will save hundreds of dollars!” (avoid not having enough money). Avoid this, avoid that. Fear. People respond quick to fear.
But as soon as people hear the message of “Donate blood today and you will save a life!” or “With your $1 gift, a child will not go hungry tonight!”, then they think twice about it. Not fear. But love.
Jesus’ message was more like “donate blood” and “give money to the poor” more than “follow me and you will avoid hell”.
Let us turn things around and follow Jesus for the right reasons. Let us not talk to people about avoiding hell, but about embracing love, acceptance, equality, justice, mercy, peace, community, humility, and the like. While thinking about today’s message on the radio, I thought of a nice way to turn the message of hell into a message of love.
So I just came up with the acronym of H.E.L.L. which stands for Heaven Embodied in a Legitimate Life. Heaven is where all begins, the spiritual life, God. Embodied because heaven can be manifested and materialized with our actions here on earth. We reflect the life that is lived in Heaven by following the teachings of Jesus. In a Legitimate life because we must practice the Kingdom of Heaven in a sincere way, without expecting a selfish reward (avoiding hell) but knowing that we are simply serving others (Jesus). And Life because this life is the gift that God gave us to practice Heaven. So let’s get out there and start living H.E.L.L. !!