Her skin was almost translucent, like damp tissue paper. The stench made me want to hurl, the odor of digested blood unmistakable, permeating the cramped E.R. room. Her eyes, faded with age were sunken behind smudged glasses. Rings hung loose on her thin, arthritic fingers, knuckles swollen and twisted.
A soul fluttering butterfly-soft on the slippery edge between this world and the next.
I heard she died the next day.
“Then the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it.” (Eccl. 12:7)
And then what?
Is God some fearful Judge who weighs her good deeds against her bad ones and comes up with an arbitrary ruling? And someday, does the same with you and me?
Could a loving God send anyone to hell?
Maybe the bad ones. I could see that.
And then, I see the stain dripping all over the days of my life, the hellish poison that has infected mankind from Eden’s first forbidden mouthful…selfishness. Ingratitude. Bitterness. I stumble in the rubble of my own destructive choices.
Apart from God’s grace, aren’t we all capable of untold evil? Sin, like Ebola, is a death sentence. A mere drop is deadly.
Does He send people to hell?
Or is it we ourselves who resist the cure like it’s a poison, flailing like a two year old in full-on tantrum that we will have our way if it kills us.
In the midst of the ugly, God shows up. The cross – the senselessly brutal instrument of torture – becomes a victory symbol of God’s unfailing love for the very ones who reject and despise Him. The antidote for hell is within every. single. person’s. grasp.
He offers not rejection, but redemption. His love beckons, a beacon in the whirling turbulence.
And we choose it, or not.
Jesus Christ came once as a suffering, servant-Messiah, but He is coming as a Warrior-King. His absolute mercy and grace was written for all time on the pages of history in His blood. But a day is coming when He will also write His passion for justice and righteousness in the blood of the unrepentantly evil.
Isn’t this still love?
How can a loving God look the other way when children are bruised and abused, dignity trampled upon, vows broken, callous cruelty runs rampant? Don’t we cry in the darkness of this sin-blighted world for justice and how long, Lord? How can we not?
A day is coming when the Lion of Judah will roar. Our choices for all of eternity will be made clear. A life without God remains a life without God.
So, does God send people to hell? Nope. I don’t believe so. But plenty of people are going there, carried in a handbasket of their own choosing.
It’s not love that fails.
God’s perfect love displayed in equal justice and mercy…
That’s the love that wins.