I know that it can be very hard at Christmas time for people who have suffered bereavement. At this highly traditional, cosy family time which is always known for its joy and ‘good cheer’ (has anyone ever explained what that actually means? 😉 ), the absence of our loved ones is always more poignant.
It’s similar for me, as the 25th of each and every month is always harder for me because my wonderful wife Fiona died on a 25th; the 25th October. That’s why I do a ‘Fiona post’ every 25th or thereabouts.
But as I wrote a few months back, although for me, my faith helps me through it, I do appreciate that not everyone has that faith. And that’s why I wrote that article, to try to help others, without such a faith, to cope.
But what I want to write about today touches not so much on matters of faith, but rather on those of heartlessness and what amounts to spiritual terrorism, especially when directed towards those who do not share a ‘faith’.
Whatever your beliefs, you will have heard religious people – usually Christians, and to a lesser extent Muslims (these are the only two faith groups, apparently, that believe in it) banging on about Hell. About a terrible place where bad people go when they die, to be tormented for ever. Or, indeed, you might even have heard someone say that everyone goes there, apart, of course, from the people who adhere to the ideas of the group making that claim.
So, I’m going to be talking a little bit about God today, but only in the context of trying to help you past any of these fears you might have, either for you or for your departed loved ones (or both!). If God doesn’t exist, then you don’t need to fear any afterlife of eternal torment in Hell. If God does exist, I would say you also don’t need to fear such an afterlife either, because, I believe, God is good and loving. Bear with me as I explain.
To my dismay, I have even heard of religious preachers at funerals perpetrating their despicable claims about Hell, at grieving relatives, destroying them in the process. Well, I am here to tell you today that, no matter what your beliefs in God, afterlife, whatever, Hell, as depicted by these nasty Religious people, does not exist.
Think back to those preachers I mentioned, who destroy grieving relatives at a funeral by claiming that the person they are mourning has gone to Hell. I can’t even imagine how someone like that can claim to be a follower of Jesus, the one about whom the Bible says that he will not crush those who are grieving; instead, he will gently lift them up. How do I know I am right, and these preachers are wrong? Well, you can tell by the effects – Christians would call it the ‘fruit’ – of what they say. If their words bring grief, destruction and sadness, they are not speaking the words of God. If, on the other hand, their words bring comfort, reassurance, even joy, then this is from God and is therefore true.
There are those who seem to really want to believe everything bad about God that they can. If there’s two Bible verses that contradict each other (and despite the contrary claims of certain religious people, the Bible does indeed contradict itself, regularly, blatantly, and often ) then why do they always go with the verse that means the most grief for the greatest number of people? I really don’t know the answer to that. But what I do know is that we need to remember Jesus. If you are afraid that God might not forgive you (for whatever), look at what Jesus did. He forgave people who were actually in the process of driving huge iron spikes through his wrists and his feet. If you are afraid that God is a grumpy old radge just waiting for someone to throw thunderbolts at, then tell me, did you ever hear any stories of Jesus doing anything like that? (Hint: Luke 9:54 where Jesus actually refuses to do just that) If you are afraid of Hell, be aware that Jesus did not speak once about such a place. Jesus actually shows God as a nice guy.
No, Hell is what happens here on earth when people are horrible to each other. Hell is the tragedy of lives wasted; lives lost to alcoholism or other addiction, or to religious fundamentalism, or whatever: anything where people are prevented from living to their full potential. Hell is nasty religious preachers telling people at funerals that, even as they speak, their loved one is burning in some terrible fire and being prodded by devils with pitchforks. That’s hell.
And Jesus came to set us free from that; both from its effects here in this world, and from the fear of its happening in the next. The afterlife – including for your loved ones, dear heart reading this – will be glorious, joyful; full of amazing colours and light and scenery and full also of the presence and love of God. Tell you what, since it’s Christmas Day today, let’s remember what the angels said to the shepherds:
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men, on whom His favour rests! (Luke 2:14)
It doesn’t mention only certain ‘chosen’ people; it says that there is peace to men (meaning all mankind) on whom His favour rests. This means that actually God likes humans. He’s not mad with us; no, He loves us and in fact likes us! This is a million miles away from the story told by those who would call everyone miserable sinners. Jesus never once did that. He just loved people, and demonstrated practically the claim of the angels; that God’s favour rests on humanity. God likes us!
And so, please be assured. Your loved one is not in a Hell of any kind. They have gone on to be with the One Who loves them – present tense – both in this life and in the next.
Don’t listen to anyone who would have the gall to tell you otherwise!
Be encouraged, dear heart.
 For example, the adjacent Bible verses Proverbs 26:4, and Proverbs 26:5. They go like this:
v.4: Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you yourself will be just like him
v.5: Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes.
So, which is it? Do you answer the fool, or don’t you? That’s a contradiction, plain as day. Oh sure, people will try to explain it away, and as a Bible college graduate, I do understand what it means. But it contradicts, and there’s no getting away from it.