What If There Was No Hell?
Can Hell Exist in Spite of Free Will?
What if there was no hell? Bear with me for a moment. I've never for one moment believed there was a place that literally burned for all eternity that spirits were sent to for punishment. Even as a small child it made absolutely no sense to me that God would do that to me, or anyone else for that matter. I did struggle with the idea of God punishing me for a very long time, but none of it ever made sense because it was so contradictory when looked at in a literal sense.
If there is a hell, that would mean God is forcing some of us through fear to love and worship Him, which is simply not possible because He promised to never take our free will. I do believe in His promise.
What is the value of a love that is forced? Nothing - it has no value. It cannot be trusted. It is not infallible. However, if we CHOOSE to meet/love/worship God, then it means everything. It has endless value when it is freely given and freely received. There’s no point in forcing us to love with threat of punishment. That, to me, would mean God is not perfect and neither is His love. It would also mean his promise is crap.
I also believe we create our own "hell" by choosing to separate ourselves from God; here, while our physical bodies are alive as well as after our body’s physical death. The Bible says in Romans 8:38-39 in the New International Version (NIV), “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
NOTHING can separate us from the love of God, right? Then why would he be a liar and send us to hell for our free will? That's not free will. That's punishing us for not knowing him. WE punish ourselves. WE will judge ourselves. He won't have to.
We Make It Harder Than It Has To Be
The basis of Christianity is so simple, yet people make it seem so difficult. The entire point is love - give it, receive it - that's it. The rest comes with love and you don’t even have to understand it. If love is there, real love, you don’t need to know, understand, or plan for the rest. It happens naturally!
If you don't believe that God loves you unconditionally, has forgiven you regardless, etc., then would you be able to face Him knowing how imperfect you are? I guarantee you'll remember every little thing you've ever done wrong when you face Him. I mean, who wouldn't? If you didn't know the truth about how much He loves you, you would avoid Him; full of shame and guilt like a child avoids their parents when they've done something wrong.
I won't avoid Him. I'm going to walk right up to Him and wrap my arms around Him and know that there is nothing I could have ever done to earn that kind of love and I will be thankful for grace and how much He loved me despite my imperfections. I know I am not perfect, but I love the best way I can, and I receive love the only way I know how. I trust with every ounce of my existence that He will NOT turn me away. He won't create something just to destroy it. He creates things to love them, enjoy them, watch them grow and learn. It hurts Him when His children don't trust Him because He knows they will turn away in shame or fear - he will not deny us because we’re “bad.”
The only thing He has ever asked us to trust was that He loves us unconditionally. That is why He says, "If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved." (Romans 10:9). That's IT. That's ALL it says. That's ALL you've got to do is BELIEVE.
Believe in what? Believe in LOVE. If you believe He was raised, then you have to believe the rest, which is He loves you enough to send His son to die for you so that you can be forgiven and loved. That's it.
Grace. That is how we are loved. It is the unmerited love and favor of the Lord. It means we CAN’T earn it. I don’t care how much you perform, it would never be enough to equal the value His love. You can’t do enough. It is ALREADY YOURS. You don’t have to EARN it. You CAN’T.
Who Made The Rules?
Also, think about this... The only thing Adam and Eve weren't allowed to do was eat from the tree of knowledge, right? The reason WHY is because it brought "wrong" into the world. It brought in judgment or an awareness of something other than good. Paradise was perfect. No matter what else they did there it was NOT WRONG before they ate the fruit. The one thing God asked was please don't learn otherwise. By eating of the fruit WE decide what is good and bad. WE judge. WE blame. WE argue and fight and point fingers. WE did that. Not God. WE will turn away. OUR hearts will be hardened... NOT God's. WE choose when the day comes whether to trust His love or to turn away in shame, fear, doubt, anger, etc. If we truly don't know then we won't trust. Guilt is a sin. Shame is a sin. All of it separates us from God. Trust His LOVE. That's ALL IT IS.
Be An Example, Not a Judge
I am so blessed to have the mother that I have. She has helped me to understand God's love without ever needing to force any religion on me. She simply "loves me anyway." I know that no matter what I do she will still love me. It makes me want to be a better person for her. It makes me want to be a better parent myself.
I love my children the way my mother loves me, and nothing they do could ever change that. My children come to me when they've done wrong and need to learn from their mistakes. They don't run and hide from me. They trust that I love them and there's no need to turn away in shame or guilt. They seek out my comfort and acceptance and education. What good would it do for me to banish them to hell for a mistake? What would they learn? They wouldn't trust me for sure.
I loved my children long before they were born and long before they were old enough to earn it. I love them even on the days where they don't act very lovable. It is not their performance in life that makes me love them - it is simply that they are my children. That's all they ever had to do to receive love from me, simply exist as my children.
Stop worrying what people are or are not doing to be deserving of God’s love because there is absolutely nothing they, or you, could do to earn it! Just love your neighbor and stop picking them apart with judgment, opinion, or expectation. If you need to hurt for them because you think they don’t know God’s love, then so be it, but don’t attack them or put them down because of it. You don’t have to correct them. WE program others incorrectly every single day to doubt God’s love when we treat them as less than and/or enter into debate or argument trying to be right, when it doesn’t even matter who is right or wrong. The only thing that truly matters is love.
I see so many times where people hurt others by trying to do the right thing. It’s like giving an addict money when they tell you they’re hungry. Money is the way they get their drugs, so prepare them a feast and invite them to eat with you instead. People mean well by providing a way for them to acquire food, yet they are actually providing a way for them to obtain what is killing them. Judging someone, yelling at them because they’re not perfect, and beating them with the Bible and threatening them with hell is certainly not going to bring them to God. I don’t want to be “loved” like that. I don’t want to meet God through someone who makes me feel shame, fear, or guilt. We are to be examples of God’s love.
What Is Love?
1 Corinthians chapter 13 in the New International Version (NIV) of the Bible says this about love: “If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
Be this example. Be patient and kind. It isn’t about you or about right or wrong. Don’t be angry or boastful or proud. Don’t put yourself above someone. If love keeps no record of wrongs and God is love, then what does that tell you? He doesn’t see their imperfections, and neither should you if you’re setting an example. We are all called to love one another - that is everyone’s calling. Knowing in part is our imperfect knowledge of love. We can’t even comprehend to the extent with which we are loved and that is where hope and faith come in. God knew before you were born how imperfect you would be, yet he loved you anyway.
Love is not forced. Love just is, therefore there is no need for hell to exist.