Today is Good Friday. Its the day that we remember the death of our Savior as a sacrifice in our place. But do we get it? The only place I've ever seen any really violent deaths is through the television. When I hear that Jesus was crucified, I don't have any experience to draw on to fully understand what he went through. My guess is that most of you are in the same boat as well. A crucifixion is so far from reality to us that its hard to comprehend. So let's look briefly at what our Savior endured for us. This will be detailed and may make some readers feel uncomfortable. It should. The goal here is not gore, but the truth of what our Savior went through for us.
*I apologize for typos, I have a packed day and don't have time to go over this with a fine comb yet!
As far as serious subjects go, its hard to get much more serious than when talking about Hell. If Hell is real, then it should definitely be a scary and saddening thought. Thinking of anyone suffering in a place of eternal torment is heart-wrenching. Hell is not pleasant to think about.
Out of that discomfort with the thought of Hell, modern opinions are changing. While 74% of Americans believe in Heaven, only 59% believe in Hell. Rob Bell recently released a book called Love Wins: A Book about Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived. In his book, Rob proposes that Hell is nothing more than the evils we commit in this life and that no one will actually be separated from God in Hell forever. Instead, Bell proposes that everyone will one day be reunited with God because God's love will win everyone over (Bell has claimed that's not what he necessarily believes, but that's hard to accept given the way his book lays this out).
So is Hell real? Is it just some old myth that we have outgrown? Is it foolish and silly for a modern and educated person to believe in such a childish thing? Was Hell simply made up to scare people into religion? Does the existence of Hell mean that God is evil and cruel?
As a pastor, I get this one a lot. Why do bad things happen to good people? Its a tough question to answer for two reasons. First, its an incredibly big topic with much more than just one quick answer. It will take time to answer it in full. That's why I've decided to make this a series. This will just be the first piece to my answer and, if you'd like to hear more, you can vote on this topic again in the future (vote on the right side of the screen).
Second, this question is not asked when everything is great and we are happy with life. People usually ask this question in the midst of tragedy. The grief, pain, and sadness that go along with this question often make us angry. All of those things put together make this a difficult discussion. So let me start by saying, I'm sorry if that's you right now. I hope and pray that God comforts you in your time of need. I assure you that God is good and I urge you to let this difficult time cause you to rely on God more rather than turning from Him in anger and unbelief.
Why do bad things happen to good people?
My first answer to the question is not exactly an answer. Instead, I have a problem with the question. Who are these good people we are referring to? I'm not a good person. Are you? How do you stack up when you compare yourself to the Ten Commandments? Have you always put God first? Do you tell lies? Do you steal? Not just grand theft auto, what about stealing music on the internet or stealing time from your employer? Do you cheat? Do you hate people? Do you love others as yourself? Do you cut people down with your words? Do you lust after attractive people? The list goes on and on.
I was a freshman in high school. I left the locker room with my gym shirt and tight gym shorts on. Why do they always make them too small? I lined up with the rest of my class and we were cracking jokes about something or other when Coach Murry walked in. He seemed a little shocked about something and with a shake of his head and a half grin he said, “Did you hear what happened?” We all shook our heads no. “Some idiot crashed a small plane into the Pentagon.”
Well that’s strange I thought. We finished up PE and I thought nothing of it. But by the look on my algebra teacher’s face when I walked into my next classroom, I could tell something was really wrong. She turned on the TV and we watched in horror as smoke poured out of the towers on live television.
As a youth pastor, I work with a lot of kids and teens. When I notice a problem or fault or mistake of one of the kids, there are different ways to approach the problem. You can just tell the kid what they did wrong and how to fix it. You can just ignore it and let it slide. One tactic I like is, for lack of a better title, the Nudge Method.
The Nudge Method is when you ask key questions or say wise things that will help the child to recognize his own mistake and develop a solution by himself. Last week, a teen came to church very tired and asked for prayer in staying awake during the service. I started the Nudge Method by asking, "What time did you go to sleep last night?" He responded that he had no idea. I asked, "Did you go to sleep at 7 PM?" He responded no quite emphatically. "So you have some idea," I said. He eventually shared that he went to sleep around 1 or 2 in the morning and everyone knew where I was going with that. That's the Nudge Method.
Somebody sent me a text message today that asked that question. It's a great question isn't it? People don't like the concept of Hell. Some people think God must be unloving to allow Hell to exist. To be honest, I kind of don't like the thought of Hell. A place of everlasting torment is not something that I would wish upon anyone... not even Hitler. But there it is. Hell. If you don't believe in Hell, you can't believe in the Bible and you definitely can't believe in Jesus who speaks about Hell more than any other person in the Bible. So what do you say about Hell?
Mark has been happily married for five years, has a year and a half old daughter, and serves as a youth and children pastor in Oak Park.