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Does Justice Require a Hell?

It is okay to be who you are as long as you are alive, because you are still becoming the person you were created to be. It’s important to know that, because otherwise you have to pretend- even to yourself- that you are perfect and don’t need to grow and change. It’s a lifelong process, a dance between grace and the limits of the hand we were dealt, that probably will still be happening at our moment of death.
I don’t know about afterward……I’m personally counting on Jesus, the expression of the unconditional Love of God, being God’s promise of forgiveness for those bad choices I made along the way to becoming the person I am meant to be. Remember the Prodigal Son story.
So, I was really struggling this week with the statement by a writer I respect: “That if God is just, there has to be a hell.” I’m wondering if that depends on your definition of “just.”
Justice to me means recognition of an evil that brings about change. The evil can be either personal or societal.
I don’t see it as a “get even” kind of thing. Plenty of people have hurt me, just as I have hurt others, but I don’t need them to suffer for it. I just want them to recognize it and sincerely regret it enough to not do it again to me or anyone else. I figure that’s what God wants from us.
I do suspect from my personal experience that a “balancing” plays out in life here in a lot of ways. Sometimes when someone hurts me, I have a sudden memory of having done the same thing to someone else. Depending on what it is, I may laugh, sigh, or feel heartbroken about my own blindness. But it frees me to not only let go of the hurt and temptation to judge, but to avoid doing it again myself.
I believe the whole point of justice isn’t retribution. Justice is about recognition, regret, forgiveness and change. It seems to me that in many ways it’s a dying to self and that we experience a lot of deaths and resurrections before the big one.

One note: Acts have consequences.  The reason there are “Do Not” commandments is that those things have negative consequences not only for others, but for those who do them. The rules are for everyone’s protection. I believe the retribution is intrinsic and comes in this life.


The Dishonest Manager: Choices and Consequences

One of the most puzzling scriptures to me has always been Luke 16:1-13. Recently, I got some insight into what I think Jesus was saying.
The master was firing a dishonest manager for squandering his property. So the dishonest manager cut everyone’s debt to the master in half in order to be welcome in their homes when he no longer had a job. It then sounds like the master approves of what the manager has done “by being shrewd as the children of this generation are so that he will be welcomed into their eternal homes.” But then Jesus goes on about being trustworthy in the small things, so you will be trusted in the large. And from there he says that no one can serve two masters. You cannot serve God and wealth.
To me the overall message is, “If you think this life is all there is, then you might as well beat the worldly at their own game. Be shrewd: get jobs through kickbacks, win rich friends with insider tips, charge exorbitant prices, use other peoples’ retirement funds to cover your mistakes, do whatever it takes to get money and power in this life.
But if you want eternal life with God, watch out. That changes everything. Because this life is short and riches are uncertain, but the love of God is eternal and trustworthy. You have to decide. What is your bottom line? God or money? This life or eternity?
As much as I believe in the unconditional love of God and that hell would be never learning to love, I can’t get around the obvious fact that we do constantly make choices and the small ones lead to a pattern of life long ones and they have consequences.
I also know that some of us are weaker than others, seemingly from birth, but I know that faith opens a reservoir of both strength from within and external coincidences that help us make choices to give, rather than take because of our own neediness. We never become perfect, but we grow toward our individual potential, by turning to the reservoir of God’s love when our neediness keeps us from loving others. As we learn how to do this more and more in all circumstances, our cups can run over with love.
Jesus wept for his people because though he loved them with all his heart, he was unable to reach them to free them from the limits of the values of this world and lead them to that reservoir of grace for all circumstances.

Since We’ve Done Away with Sin and Hell, What’s the Point of Christmas?

To be honest,  I don’t see sin the same way I used to and I’ve discovered that we make our own private hells on earth, when we refuse to grow past needing into loving.

A view currently popular is that a world suffering from some original ancient ancestors’ screwing up isn’t reasonable or just and that tiny babies come into the world innocent and lovable.

I agree with both.

BUT, all tiny babies come into the world Needy with a capital N. Ask any parent. And some are needier than others, through no fault of their own.  It’s just how nature is.

And NEED is the opposite of  love, in fact it prevents us from loving.

We  can’t experience the transforming  joy of Christmas, until we recognize our neediness.

Note: needing to please others or even getting pleasure from doing for others is not always love.  It can actually be a destructive enabling out of our own neediness.

At one point in my life, I recognized that I was a bottomless pit of needs and wants.  And I felt totally unable to truly love- anyone, even parents, husband, children. I was like Snoopy, I loved humanity. It was people I couldn’t accept.

The paradox is this: unless we know, with mind, heart, and soul, that we are loved unconditionally, we cannot grow from needing to loving.  But that requires recognizing and admitting with mind, heart, and soul that we are needy, not loving.

At the point when I recognized that I was too needy to love, I also recognized that there was not enough love in this imperfect world of imperfect people to free me .  Fortunately for me, that is what Christmas is about.

Perfect Love for all of us came as a baby with human needs and offered us a Love that can set us free.

And that is the transforming  joy of Christmas: Saving unconditional love that sets us free and gives us  illustrated instructions on how to grow from need to love.

Joy to the world, for Love has come.  Let us rejoice and open our hearts to receive it.

Come, Lord Jesus, free us to love.