Thursday, April 17, 2014

More on disobedience...

My last post might strike some as taking too light of an approach to a grave topic. Disobedience toward God is indeed a very serious thing. Are there no consequences? What about hell?

God's love is unconditional and eternal. God is unchanging and unchangeable. He does not stop loving us when we sin nor does He dole out punishment to us for our misdeeds by sending us disease or misfortune in this life.

He has not created a fiery hell in which to cast us when we make mistakes or yield to our weaknesses. Even if we fail to repent, He does not withdraw His love from us.

This is my faith. This is Christianity.

Some of the suffering people who come to see me tell me that they believe that hell is right here on this earth, that they are in hell right now.

And they may be correct - but not for the reasons that they think. More on that later.

As I write this, it is Holy Thursday and I have just returned from celebrating the Lord's Supper. In this holy meal, Jesus gives Himself to us completely and for all time.

He first gave Himself as Eucharist to His apostles, (including Peter who would deny Him within 24 hours and Judas who would betray Him that very night). He did not limit His gift to the obedient.

He has continued giving and giving Himself in sacrament to saints and sinners alike, for generation after generation, century after century. And now to you and me. It is a grace and love beyond telling...

So if God loves me unconditionally, giving Himself to me whether or not I am obedient, what is point of being obedient?

This is where hell comes in. Hell is not a torture chamber designed by God for the next life nor is it the suffering we experience in this life - though the latter can indeed be very bad.

Hell is being in the midst of suffering, with God loving you completely, totally and unconditionally - and you don't know it. You don't know that He loves you, that He is holding you at every moment. You think that you are totally alone and that you are locked into the dungeon of that aloneness with no means of escape. You imagine either that there is no key - or that God is outside holding the key, with no intention of releasing you because you deserve to suffer.

That is hell.

And that hell is of our own creation. There is no dungeon and we are not really alone - but sometimes a belief can be stronger than reality in our corrupted awareness. The hell we experience is locked from the inside. Christ is most certainly there with us ready to show us the way out. However, if we don't know it, we experience no comfort, no hope. We experience hell.

And so to be obedient, to repent, to change my heart, to "cease doing evil and learn to do good", to love and forgive, to pray and to receive Eucharist - all of this is so that I might know Christ and unite my heart to His, by the gift of His grace.

United to Christ in obedience, am I then guaranteed freedom from the pains and sorrows of this existence? Am I promised that I will be loved by others and have the things I want and need from this world?

Most assuredly not. In fact, I am promised quite the opposite - at least for a time.

United to Him, I still feel pain and sorrow, grief and betrayal. But I am not alone. I am loved.

And so I choose to walk with Jesus, praying for the courage to be obedient and the humility to know that I cannot walk this path without Him...