I admit it. I enjoy finding flaws in other people’s opinions. I enjoy finding reasons to believe what I believe, and to show why what others believe is false. The question that needs to be asked is this: can I take this too far? Or, better yet, have I taken this too far?
For example, on one of the Facebook forums that I’m a part of, the question of hell was asked. This person simply asked, “Are there any people in this group that do not believe in the popular belief of hell?” Here is what I’m wanting you to get at. What was your first reaction? Did something rise up within you to attack, possibly in the name of defending the faith, as if this person is renouncing the existence of hell? Read the question again.
When I read that, my first question was: “What precisely do you mean by ‘popular belief of hell’?”
When I was younger in the faith, a man told me, “Sheep bite each other.” Me, being the inquisitive kook that I am, asked why. The reply that I’ll never forget: “Because they’re stupid!” The look on this man’s face was somewhat dumbstruck that I wouldn’t know this…
Why is it that something rises up in us to attack instead of to correct? “Because they’re stupid!” That was the first real finger in my chest regarding this issue. I’ve since learned to be a little less gun-ho with my responses. To finish the story of the Facebook post, the woman replied that she doesn’t know that she believes in eternal torment. Essentially, she is asking the question of whether the lake of fire is destructive rather than tormenting. Does the soul cease to exist after being cast into the lake of fire? Or is there a lasting residue that must eternally be tormented in agony? That was the question.
Many of the responses didn’t take long before they were mocking, jeering, and stabbing.
Well MY Bible says… Aren’t we essentially saying, “You must have one of those false wannabe Bibles, or else you aren’t reading all of it.” What could be more insulting? Just because I don’t agree with YOUR opinion, I now don’t read my Bible, or I don’t understand it, thus concluding I’m not saved? Is that truly Christian love? I think John puts it this way: “If you hate your brother, the love of God is not in you”.
Another comment called it “nonsense”. Mind you, it hadn’t yet been established what this woman believed. All that was established is that she has a question regarding the legitimacy of eternal torment. She wasn’t saying there is no hell. She wasn’t saying everyone makes it to heaven. She is simply asking whether people will be eternally tormented.
Another comment went on to explain how the “plain reading of the text” would point to… Oh, so there aren’t any grey areas here… Why, then, does Jesus talk about fearing Him who can destroy both body and soul in hell? Why say it if it won’t happen? If she was questioning the deity of Christ or the virgin birth, now we’re venturing into something that is indeed rather clear. Exactly how hell works is not one of those topics.
I visited Kansas City. There was a man there who I was discussing the end times with. He mentioned that Babylon in the book of Revelation is America. I told him there is nothing to suggest that. He then said that there is nothing to suggest it is Jerusalem. I referenced that Revelation 11 focuses around Jerusalem, and chapters 13 and 17 suppose the same. I then quoted 1 Peter 5:17, where Peter says, “The saints in Babylon send their greeting”. Notice that, by the way. Peter was in Jerusalem, and Babylon had been destroyed and buried for centuries by this point. His response was, “Well, the Lord told me America is Babylon.”
“The Lord told me…” Is this not another smack in the face? If I was actually spiritual, and truly heard from God, then I would know better. Babylon is America, because “the Lord told me”. Suddenly subjective experience is the objective truth. Why don’t we even admit that there are grey areas, and these subjects are certainly within that area?
Sheep bite each other. Yet, I can’t help but wonder, why? Is it truly that they’re stupid, or is the truth that goats bite each other, but sheep are gentle? Actually, if you’re willing to look into it, you’ll find that I’m right. My friend was wrong. Sheep don’t bite each other unless they’re agitated. Goats will bite one another, but sheep work together. Most likely, if you’re biting your fellow brethren, it’s because you’re a goat. And if someone is biting you, it is because they’re a goat. Now, don’t take this too far. Everyone needs correction in some area. However, the character of the sheep is to work together, and if the first reaction is attacking and biting, then it needs to be challenged.