10/29/11 Danny, Mario, Edgar all 16
After dark in a city park I saw some teens messing with some trees that were about to be tranplanted there and I started walking toward them. "I have a question for you" I said and they nervously waited to find out what it was. They thought I was an undercover cop and was about to ask them why they were messing with the trees. "What do you think happens after this life, what comes next?" I asked. One of them, Danny, said "I'm goin' straight to hell" with a laugh and a knowing glance at his friends. I answered "I know you don't believe that, because if you really did, you wouldn't be laughing about it". He had to admit that deep down he believes he is a pretty good person (despite having recently robbed a cab driver) and will end up in heaven. We went on from there to a good conversation. I write this because it reminds me that deep down most people do not believe they will really end up in hell. They try to justify and trivialize their own sin, and they trivialize God's holiness and His love for justice, so they simply can't believe God would punish them in hell. The church is partly to blame for this, with our modern emphasis on God's love for us to the exclusion of His love for justice, or the opposite extreme of hellfire/brimstone preaching which can make God seem like a cruel tyrant and therefore unrealistic and unbelievable. We need to be ready to explain that hell is indeed a reasonable punishment for offenses against an infinitely holy God.