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CHURCH CORNER: Forget past, live for the future

There’s a big debate about hell these days. Maybe you heard about it. A famous leader by the name of Rob Bell has raised the issue and everybody’s up in arms. So what’s new? These days people get up in arms at the drop of a hat. We’re an angry culture. We’re an angry people. But we don’t like the idea of an angry God. Why is that?

It’s because we’re too busy to stop and think. It’s because we careen through life at 110 mph and then wonder why there’s no meaning or depth or significance. We Twitter and we Facebook instead of thinking and feeling. We have knee-jerk reactions instead of careful considerations and it makes us foolish. So let’s stop and think about the idea of an angry God.

All of us get angry. Sometimes we get angry for the wrong reasons and sometimes for the right reasons. The real test of anger is whether the reason is reasonable. An inmate strangles a helpless prison guard who has repeatedly begged for protection and we get justifiably angry. A policeman stops us for speeding as a means of keeping our streets safe and we get unjustifiably angry. You see the difference. So, what makes God angry?

It’s very simple, actually. He gets angry when people hurt themselves or others. Sin is not something God prohibits because he’s a prude – it’s something he prohibits because of the way it affects us. If we could just get a grip on that, hell starts to look different.

Most people think God throws people into this lake of fire called hell because they failed some essential test or standard. Not so.  The lava lake is just one of many metaphors the Bible uses to talk about God’s anger. In fact, the Bible tells us that God doesn’t want anyone to go to hell, but most people will. Why? Because they turn themselves into junk. Jesus co-opted the local landfill as a metaphor. He said that hell is like a garbage dump; it’s the place people go when they have become useless for anything else. Let me illustrate. If a man indulges pornography until he can’t see a woman as a person but an object, then there’s nothing you can do but set him to the side. He has become the spiritual equivalent of garbage. If a woman’s temper has become so sharp that her tongue is a weapon, there comes a point where you can’t work with her anymore. She has made herself worthless.

But the good news is that God digs recycling. He’s wants to recycle anyone and everyone who has junked up their life. So he stands by the side of the road and sorts through the refuse, looking for anyone who is willing to be recycled.

“Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved,” (Acts 16:31) he says. The only requirement is a willingness to be recycled expressed as a simple belief in Jesus.

But most people refuse. They would rather hang on to their bent, broken, damaged past than a bright and living future. So hell becomes a necessity, simply because people insist on it. That is what makes God angry – nothing else, and nothing less. The Bible says, “He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). That’s worth thinking about the next time you take out the trash. Recycling is real.

- submitted by the Rev. Greg Daulton

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