There are probably many people out there who believe I am headed for eternal damnation. But probably most people who know me don’t ponder this one way or another.
I have reached the point that it doesn’t matter to me what (most) people believe about my life – or afterlife. I’m grateful that God continues to reveal things to me that crack open what Jesus has taught us and every day’s a school day when it comes to what we can learn from the historians, prophets, and poets of the Bible. It doesn’t matter if you think my theology is mistaken or my politics are wrong or my lifestyle is a wasteland of caffeine and Apple TV. But if you love me and you “know” I’m going to hell, it hurts.
I think about LGBTQA+ Christians who live with this each day. There are people in their lives – some of whom are in their families of origin or even their chosen families – who believe they are condemned by God. I think of “agitators” who are trying to speak up and speak out about injustices in the world and they are written off as “faithless.” Certainly there are Republican Christians who can’t imagine how a person can be Christian and vote for Democrats. And there are Democratic Christians who can’t imagine how a person can be Christian and vote for Republicans. And there are the Christians who have mental check-lists about other people who call themselves believers, but they don’t follow the check list (so they are probably not really believers.)
Jesus said, “‘Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” (The Gospel of Matthew 10:34) Ouch.
There are some with whom we will never be at peace perhaps because they clearly judge us instead of love us for who we are and what God is leading us to be and do. (I can hear the retort now: “God is actually not the one leading you to be a _________ and do _________.)
My dad used to say, “Just love ’em.” Just love ’em when they get on your last nerve. Just love ’em when they ignore you. Just love ’em when they hurt you.
It’s really hard to do when they have condemned you and you happen to want them in your life anyway in hopes they will one day understand. And in the meantime, we pray for the capacity to love honestly and graciously even those who are certain we are spending eternity in fire.
The bottom line is that God is God and we are not.
Image of Mary fighting Satan from The Book of Hours creating in about 1240. (The British Library, London.)