1/20/16 Steve 30's
I'm no conspiracy theorist, but that doesn't mean I think conspiracies don't exist. Yesterday I encountered one of the worst conspiracies out there, in my opinion. After grocery shopping I began an outreach conversation with another shopper named Steven who has virtually no spiritual background. He revealed that his disdain for religion is based on a common conspiracy theory - the belief that the idea of hell was invented by the Roman Catholic Church as a way to control people. A problem with this theory though is that the idea of hell dates back long before the Church began, and was taught by Jesus himself even more than he taught about heaven.
I do believe that the doctrine of hell has been misused and abused by many parents and church leaders to manipulate people over the centuries, but that doesn't make it any less true. I told Steve that the real conspiracy is the teaching that hell doesn't exist when in fact it does. Jesus called the devil "the father of lies", so we shouldn't expect Satan to be honest about the existence of hell or any sort of judgment or consequence for our sinful actions. The devil conspires not only to make us doubt the existence of hell, but to make it laughable.
I don't enjoy arguing for the existence of hell, but ignoring it won't make it go away. How could a guy like Steve, who doesn't consider God's perfect holiness or the seriousness of sin, begin at least to take seriously a God and a religion that teaches what seems to Steve to be an outrageous and outdated concept? But the reality of hell isn’t meant to be comfortable. If denying it didn't compromise God's perfect holiness, His justice and His Word, I wouldn't want to believe in it either.
Given the limitations of a 20 minute conversation in the aisles of a grocery store, I focused on our relationship with God, broken first in the Garden of Eden and now every time we sin. I told Steve “When Adam and Eve first ate the forbidden fruit in the Garden, they knew their sin was exposed and they were naked, and they hid. They were cut off from the close relationship with God they once had, and in the same way our sins isolate us from God. It would be hell to experience that isolation without hope for eternity. In Jesus, God offers to restore that lost relationship.” There is so much more that could be said about it, but I think what Steve needed to hear was that though God loves justice, which means hell must exist, He also loves us and wants us to relate to Him as our heavenly Father. What a horrible conspiracy indeed that tries to distract us from so great a salvation!