Hell is Not a Parlor Game

I don’t think questions about who has gone to hell
should be a parlor game.
God, alone, knows the end to each of our stories –
as the author of our faith –
He holds the ending in His hand
and it’s not my job to speculate about
the final destination for
Mother Theresa
or Princess Diana
or Hitler
or Bin Laden
or the President
or your ex-husband.
Hell should never be a punch line
in any joke
nor should anyone be cavalier
about damnation.
We’re a culture of funny people.
We love to mock
to laugh –
we live for the one-liner
and the wisecrack.
But there is a time to laugh
and a time to refrain from laughter.
I’ve spent many hours with clients
in family court –
it’s a deadly serious place.
Even the roughest characters on my caseload
stand straighter
and sober up
when they are in the presence of a judge.
Family court is the kind of place
where boasting shrivels up
and scurries into the corner
like a cockroach in the light
a place
that even when justice is done
there isn’t a lot of celebrating
because of the serious nature of the subject –
the lives and relationships of children
and families.
When people walk into court
the gravity of their decisions
comes to rest on them
like a black robe
and when the gavel falls
it usually shatters
someone’s dream.
Such is what I think about hell.
It’s not a place of red devils and pitchforks.
There aren’t great parties happening
with friends just happy to be together forever.
It’s a place of mawing hopelessness,
unrelenting regret,
eternal separation from love, joy, beauty, truth, light, and all that is holy.
Hell and who enters hell
is too great a subject for me.
It should only be handled by the One with the power to
create life,
to speak the world into existence,
to forgive or
to withhold forgiveness.
When we approach the subject of hell
it should never be with levity
or sarcasm
or self-righteousness –
because we all deserve to go there
and are only spared it
not by anything we’ve done
but by the righteous act of Jesus on our behalf.
Have you ever survived a
car accident
or a natural disaster
or an assault?
Do you recall the feeling that followed
after your relief at being alive
when the gravity of what almost happened sinks in – how close you came to death?
That’s how we should feel
when we approach the subject of hell –
never flippant,
never overly-wise
lest our listeners think
that life
and eternal death
are cosmic punch-lines
or that we will derive any satisfaction
if they end up there.
I imagine that on judgment day – we will not hear even one “I told you so”
when witnessing the consequence
for those who reject Jesus Christ.
If you cannot find the words to speak with others at length about hell, that’s understandable,
the least you can do, though, is bear witness to the subject
as the grave and sober business it is
and never play guessing games
about who will end their stories there.
You want a game? Play checkers.
You want to laugh? Visit a comedy club.
There’s nothing funny about hell. Nothing.

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    The Conversation

  1. Spot on again, via inspiration from the Spirit to your brain and then to your keyboard!! I have heard it said for the unbelievers this is the closest they will ever get to heaven and for the believing, earth is as close as we will ever get to hell. My husband said the fact that there will never, ever be one bit of consolation or love there is what makes it really hell. Love is God and no God there forever and ever and ever. It is unspeakable. If you read this without Christ, believe that He took on the burden of your sins and paid for them all and God raised Him showing He was forever satisfied and you too will be rescued from that awful place.

  2. Mike W. says:

    Thank you, Lori (again)!

  3. So well handled. Good for you voice from RI and Christian corners.

  4. Felicia says:

    Absolutely spot on, Lori.

  5. Pam Manners says:

    I have to wonder if some people treat the subject of Hell so lightly and with jokes and laughter for the same reason they treat topics like fatal illnesses and death: because they are afraid. And jokes and laughter help to difuse that fear. People claim there is no Hell, but maybe, deep inside they believe there just might be, and if there is, they just might headed there. the thought of that is so overwhelmingly frightening that it becomes easier to laugh it off rather than take it seriously. I’m not condoning them, but just wondering, Lori

  6. Maurie says:

    What a great analogy from our world–family court. You write with a clarity that brings a reader to an abrupt stop. Thank you for bringing up hell, when I had relegated it to a cobweb corner.