Sunday, March 17, 2013

hell on earth?

I've started going to the college/young adult group at church the past two weeks - not leading it, but being an adult mentor. The group has been studying the Nicene Creed and this past week the topic was salvation. And something we talked about has stayed with me.

First, here's a video we watched. This is Penn Jillette (of "Penn and Teller" fame). Penn is an magician illusionist in Las Vegas and an extremely outspoken atheist. He sometimes even writes "There is no God" under his autograph for fans. This video is from 2008 which Penn recorded after a show.

Something he said around the 3 minute mark hit home:

"I've always said that I don't respect people who don't proselytize. I don't respect that at all. If you believe that there's a heaven and hell and people could be going to hell or not getting eternal life or whatever, and you think, 'Well it's not really worth telling them this because it would make it socially awkward...' and atheists who think that people shouldn't proselytize (ie. 'Just leave me alone, keep your religion to yourself...'), how much do you have to hate somebody to NOT proselytize?

How much do you have to hate somebody to believe that everlasting life is possible and not tell them that? I mean, if I believed beyond a shadow of a doubt that a truck was coming at you and you didn't believe it (that the truck was bearing down on you), there's a certain point where I tackle you. And this is MORE important than that."  --Penn Jillette

Here is a staunch atheist who was touched by one man who took the time to talk to him after a show. This man showed he cared about Penn and gave him a bible. And what does Penn take away from that? "That was a good man." That guy might not have changed Penn's mind on anything, but it struck something in Penn to make him share in a vlog about the experience.

After watching that clip, our speaker asked, "What is hell?" After some discussion, we agreed on what most Christians would say: hell is eternal separation from God. That should be reason enough to share Jesus with our neighbors. (Not that we scare them with fire and brimstone talks about hell). But if we believe that is what awaits people who don't know Jesus, wouldn't we want to be more bold with the gospel?

But our speaker took it one step further. "It's not just separation from God after we die. If people don't have Christ in their lives...can't that be hell on earth?" I let that soak in. He's right. A life on earth without God would be hell. I would be separated from God.

I thought back on all the times in my life when I went through hard times. If I didn't have God, I don't know where I would be. Or if I would have made it. I also thought back to all the times in my life where I had such joy, peace, or hope which I knew came from the Lord. What about all the people on this earth who don't know God? They are separated from him. Sure, they might feel happy at times, but it's fleeting. They wouldn't know the freedom and blessing and purpose that comes from a life with Christ.

What Penn said might sound harsh, but it's true. How much do I have to hate someone to NOT share the good news of Jesus with them? Why do I worry about what they'll think of me, or if it's socially awkward, or if I do a bad job at sharing? If people are experiencing hell on earth (and will be spending eternity separated from their loving Heavenly Father), why wouldn't I say something?

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