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It’s Not About Heaven Or Hell

Christianity is not ALL about avoiding hell or having a happy afterlife in heaven. In fact, it’s not even MOSTLY about those things. I do not think it is about these things much at all.

The schema (organizing principle) of the Christianity is focused on the life we live here and now. It is focused on the people right in front of us.

It was that way with Jesus. He died and returned from the dead, but he said nothing about heaven or hell, or the afterlife. Rather his focused was on life in the Kingdom of God here and now among the people we call neighbors, family, friends, and even enemies.

My experience in several churches which I have pastored (Baptist, United Church of Christ, and Presbyterian) – and well as hundreds of other churches that I have been connected to in one fashion or another – is that this thing called the Christian FAITH is focused on the hear and now.

My denominational affiliations (The Baptist General Association of Virginia and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship) do not focus their mission and ministry in any discernible fashion on heaven, hell, or the afterlife – but on the present life, the here and now.

The focus on the Christian faith is NOT about heaven or hell.

It’s about making a positive impact on the world now. It’s about feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting those in nursing homes, caring for those in prisons, etc. It’s about telling people about God’s love, and inviting them to recognize and living response to Divine grace.

The motivation for doing good among Christian people in the church buildings where they gather is not to avoid hell or secure one’s place in heaven. Rather, they are motivated by love, kindness, generosity, and kindness.

These are the people who empty their pockets when a family in the community is burned out in a house-fire and has no place to stay and only the clothing on their backs.

These are the people who empty their pockets to support world hunger collections in their congregations and denominations – much more than those who give outside such “institutions.”

These are the people who volunteer and run the community homeless mission houses (not just as Christmas, but year round).

These are the people who battle prejudice in themselves and others to become more inclusive of folks from other races and ethnic heritages.

These are the people who nurtured people like Martin Luther King, Jr., Mother Teresa, St. Francis, and Pope Francis.

Yes, these folks preach and teach for conversion….but the motivation for preaching the gospel (or the invitation offered to others to believe) is not to sell people fire insurance (or the avoidance of a place called hell), but rather the joy now of experiencing the wonderful blessing of a life transformed by the overwhelming blessing of being liked, loved, accepted, included, and adopted by God the Father, through Jesus the Christ, who came in the power of the Spirit to share with us all God’s redemption of us from the darkness of sin.

I am not foolish enough to think that there are not some out there whose entire religion is based on heaven, hell, or something to do with the afterlife. I know that mentality is out there.

But if you think that is ALL or ever MOST of us, you are mistaken.

And if this has been your experience in a church or two or three…that still does not make it the majority opinion. AND if that has been your experience, I am truly sorry for the crap you’ve experience…but neither all nor most of us are like that.

Here and Now: Living in the Spirit
by: Henri J. M. Nouwen
publisher: The Crossroad Publishing Company, published: 2006-08-01
ASIN: 0824519671
EAN: 9780824519674
sales rank: 79110
price: $7.25 (new), $2.29 (used)
Not a faint memory, but happening right here and now, spiritual living takes place in the present; the Spirit meets us in the ordinary. These inspirational reflections by Henri Nouwen succeed in convincing us that God’s presence is reliable.
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2 Responses to “It’s Not About Heaven Or Hell”

  1. Ned says:

    Oh? Could those charitable things be done WITHOUT religion? And aren’t they? In fact, given the number of people who use religion simply to profit for their own ends (Numerous TV evangelists like Joel Olsteen for example), one would assume that charitable giving is actually INDEPENDENT of religious sourcing.

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