“Are You Saying I’m Going To Hell?”
Nothing disrupts a bible study or spiritual discussion quite like when a person realizes they are not in compliance with a bible demand, and they irritably ask, “So are you saying I’m going to hell?” In fact, many times it’s more of an accusation than it is a question, uttered out of fear that their salvation may be at risk. But rather than make the proper correction, they go on the defense, thinking if they can arouse prejudice, they can deem you unworthy of study and “stay the course”. I find that asking the following questions can be helpful in calming a person down, for shedding light as opposed to shedding heat:
Question #1: “With respect, why do you care what I think?” I didn’t invent “hell”. The bible is our sole source of knowledge about this dreadful place. In fact, no one in the bible spoke on the topic of hell more than Jesus Christ. If we accept what Jesus revealed about hell, it seems logical we would also accept His teaching on what we must both do and be to avoid it. Obsessing over my opinion (or even your opinion), when those opinions are irrelevant, is a pointless distraction. Reading what Jesus taught and applying those implications to our personal life is where the focus needs to be.
Question #2: “Every believer buys into some doctrinal exclusivity predetermined in their mind. What is yours and why?” For example, John 8:24b – “…for unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.” Is it safe to assume from this verse alone that if a person does not believe in Jesus, they will go to hell? I’m yet to meet a believer who would say otherwise. But if you believe John 8:24, you also have to believe Luke 13:3 – “I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” And then there is Mark 16:16 – “He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.” Let’s certainly agree where we share common ground, but let’s not exclude other verses that lay out similar ultimatums.
Question #3: “Is fear of hell how you measure the quality of your faith?” It’s a fair question because I’m yet to encounter two people who are in a strong, healthy relationship in which one of those people simply did the bare minimum so as not to lose that relationship. Strong relationships are ones in which both sides bend over backwards to serve the other. God already did His part at Calvary. Can I really say I’m in a committed relationship with the Lord if my Christianity is only measured by what I should or shouldn’t do “to not get in trouble”? These are the kind of people that only attend church on Christmas and Easter. These are people that forget that the greatest commandment is not to “believe in God”, but to love Him “with all our heart, soul, and strength” (Matt 22:36-38). Shouldn’t our relationship with Jesus be driven by such a love to honor Him as Lord and Savior that I would want to obey Him in all that He asks me to do? Is the primary motivating factor behind your faith, a relationship ruled by fear and doing the bare minimum just to avoid hell, or is it ruled by a love and desire to honor Christ in everything for all that He has done for you (1 John 4:18)? It’s not unreasonable to question how strong a person’s faith really is when they’re more concerned with whether “I” am condemning them than they are in learning how to love God better.
Question #4: “If you can see that Jesus teaches differently than what you’ve previously been taught, isn’t your anger misdirected?” Gal 4:16 – “So have I become your enemy by telling you the truth?” Not that I would ever encourage unbridled anger, but if you’re going to be angry, why are you angry at me rather than the church or the person who taught you things contrary to the passages in question? Not only should I love Jesus enough to stand up for what He taught, I should love Him enough to stand against those who teach otherwise. Please don’t hate the messenger. Either show me where I am incorrect, or join me on the front lines to teach the pure, unadulterated gospel of Jesus Christ.