This viral tweet by Jana Namirah came in the wake of the 2016 Pulse Nightclub shooting that left 49 dead and 53 others wounded. Christians from around the world were sending their prayers and condolences to those impacted by the horrific slaughter, but Namirah didn’t see the love behind their actions.
I get it. It sounds odd to suggest that someone will be spending their afterlife in eternal suffering while also telling them that you care for them. Such conflicting messages may even appear dehumanizing or at best condescending. Again, I get it.
But truth is not defined by its subjects. The inspired Word of God is His authority to the world.
“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life.” –Romans 6:23
To be clear, Christian theology doesn’t teach that homosexuality specifically is a salvific deal-breaker, but rather unrepented lives of sin — no matter the sin.
To call a Christian “hateful” for explaining that someone is on the path to Hell is quite convoluted. The reason that a Christian would say that someone is going to Hell is that they want to see them turn from sin (death) and surrender their life to Jesus (eternal life). Hateful? Penn Jillette, a renowned devout atheist, would call it hateful to say nothing:
So is it hypocritical to hold to the doctrine of Hell while also praying for the souls of the lost? On the contrary, it is absolutely consistent. Hypocrisy is preaching one thing and then intentionally doing another. Praying peace for someone who is grieving is not incompatible with opposing convictions.
Many pastors refuse to talk about Hell because it’s “not what people want to hear.” Really? Does a doctor neglect to inform their patient when they’re diagnosed with a terminal illness? It is as if the doctors know their patients have cancer, but since the patient doesn’t want to hear that kind of stuff, the doctor just talks about how good the patient’s teeth are. Without acknowledging the illness, there can be no treatment rendered.
“If sinners be damned, at least let them leap to Hell over our dead bodies. And if they perish, let them perish with our arms wrapped about their knees, imploring them to stay. If Hell must be filled, let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go unwarned and unprayed for.” –Charles Spurgeon
I won’t be that guy who says, “The gospel isn’t a message about Hell, it’s a message of love,” because, quite frankly, it involves both and I refuse to compromise the biblical message in the name of sugar-coating.
But how can a message of eternal damnation coexist with a message of love?
The question above is a common one, but it carries a false presupposition. It presupposes that God is sending us to Hell, but that is not the case. We have paved that road ourselves. God’s justice allows Hell to be the result of an unregenerate soul, but His love is made evident when His grace shreds our ticket to Hell into a million pieces. This gift of grace is available to anyone who surrenders their life of sin to God and declares Him their Lord and their Savior.
God is holy, meaning He is perfect. He demands nothing less than perfection to be in a relationship with Him. But since nobody is perfect, nobody can be in a relationship with God, right?
Cue: In comes Jesus.
God’s holiness demands our holiness. While His love for His children was great, it did not change the truth that our sin could not coexist with His holiness. Jesus’ death on the cross was the atoning (redeeming) sacrifice needed to credit us the righteousness demanded of God. That was the ONLY way for our purity to be restored and our relationship with God to be made possible.
Hell is real.
Hell is eternal.
But God is love and His love compelled Him to step off His throne, incarnate as a man, subject Himself to everything shy of royalty, submit Himself to a humiliating and horrifying death…so that we don’t have to go to Hell.
That is where love coexists in the message of Hell.
Check out the Falkirk Center podcast with Allie Beth Stuckey on the toxic culture of self-love: