I had been planning to post about this for a few weeks and then heard that Two Friars and a Fool were finally unleashing their #95tweets project I figured that I would wait, post about that and then follow it up with this.
A while ago at a home group I was a part of we watched a video featuring Fransis Chan and whilst talking about it afterwards several of us agreed that he seemed to use Hell as a motivation for how we act. From what little I know about Chan* he does and says some good things and I have no wish to to take that away from him. But I do disagree with him on this. I think that Hell is completely the wrong motivation for Christians for how we live on Earth. If Hell is the reason that we do or do not do certain things then that is ultimately selfish and done out of love for the self, to save the self and not through love of God or love of our neighbour. But through exploring and reconsidering the doctrine of Hell we can reconsider our faith and our motivation. We can learn to be motivated by the beauty of God’s Kingdom, of the passion to see the world restored. We can be motivated by being part of God’s kingdom now “the Kingdom of God is within you” and bringing restoration to people’s lives and the awesomeness of that, not because we don’t want to go to Hell.
When I have told people that I like Mathew 25:31-end (the parable of the sheep and goats) the reply has been that they don’t. I think, perhaps, that the reason that they don’t like it is that it makes them question their own salvation. The reason that I do like it is that it makes me question my own salvation. I don’t want to be motivated to do these things to be sure of my salvation, but to do so because of love and beauty and the potential I see to help restore the world to how it should be.
A parent doesn’t want their child’s love out of fear, because of what may happen to them if they don’t profess love for the parent. Do we imagine that God wants us to love him out of fear? Is that even true love? Which motivation would you prefer from the people that love you? How much more must our heavenly father prefer for love to be given out of beauty rather than fear.
*Basically having watched this video a while ago and read a couple of quotes on line so I really don’t claim to understand where he is coming from or what he is like I am just using this to illustrate my point.
Over the coming months I am going to be holding a few events that I have decided to entitled “Blessed are those who mourn”. The first will be “An evening of Lamentation” to introduce some of the ideas and explain what I am looking at and doing over the coming months. The second will be “At Christmas” (or possible another, better subtitle when I’ve thought of one), creating a provision for those facing Christmas without a loved one, with illness etc who will find the season of celebration difficult.
Sometimes Christians try to sell faith as making everything alright, as long as you have God life is good. Selling God as a product like any good advertiser or marketing department (buy into this and you find fulfilment/happiness). Not only does this not ring true to experience but neither does it ring true with the Bible. What do we do with “Blessed are those who mourn” if God’s blessings mean that we don’t experience the suffering and mourning. Why would those who mourn be blessed if this was the case? It just doesn’t add up nor make sense.
I also think that this goes deeper than the blessing for those who mourn for their own situation (although this is definitely a big part of it), I think that there is a wider sense of mourning, a mourning for the imperfect world that we live in, a mourning that the Kingdom is coming but is not fully here and that therefore people live through difficult situations and there is little justice in the world. I don’t think it is a passive mourning though, I think it is a mourning that drives us to action, that means that we want to act to help bring the Kingdom and to bring healing to people’s situations.
And so I suppose these tho things, encapsulated by the second of the Beatitudes is what “Blessed are those who mourn” and the events/services that I organise are about.