Hell-Bent on Ministry

Serving simply to get people saved is a religious agenda.  As pure and noble as it may seem to us as believers, it is manipulative to the world, and is viewed as impure service.  The world can smell it a mile away.  We put them on the defensive when we carry such reasons for serving into their sphere of responsibility.  But, for example, when we volunteer in our local school to help the principal succeed, then we’ve crossed the line into territory seldom visited by the Church.  It’s serving for the benefit of another.   (Bill Johnson, Dreaming with God)

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the theology of a friend of mine who doesn’t believe in hell. Or, to put it another way, she and her husband believe that the blood of Jesus covers everyone and that everyone (and I do mean EVERYONE) is going to heaven.

For the record, I do not believe that there is no hell, and I do not believe that everyone will go to heaven. But I can’t help but admire my friends who have adopted this as their theology and yet continue to minister to those who do not believe in Jesus. They constantly open their home and their hearts to Christians and non-Christians alike and are always doing everything they can to bring people into a closer relationship with Jesus. They don’t evangelize to “win souls,” they evangelize because they love Jesus, are blessed by their relationship with Him, and want others to experience a relationship with Him. Isn’t this how it should be?

For years, believers have ministered with the sole purpose of keeping people out of hell. We’ve taken the sacrifice of Jesus and reduced it to no more than a “get out of hell free” card. We’ve looked upon the Son of God, bleeding and nailed to the cross, lifted our hands in a wave and shouted “thanks for keeping me out of hell, Jesus!” How incredibly heartbreaking.

What kind of love would we be showing people if we weren’t ministering to them with the motivation of keeping them out of hell? If we weren’t trying to get them to join our church or give up promiscuity or quit drinking? How would our love for others manifest itself if we weren’t trying to manipulate them into salvation?

And what about our own lives? I can’t help but wonder how our own lives would change if we believed there was no hell. Would we still be laboring to “train up our children in the way they should go” if the threat of hell was no longer looming over them? Would we still be ministering to the “lost,” if their salvation were already guaranteed? Would we be striving to please God in this life if our actions had little bearing on the life to come?

Interestingly enough, my friends who hold this as their theology have gone deeper in their relationship with God than most Christians I know. They minister to everyone, every chance they get. They take great pains to teach their children about God. They even obey the Old Testament commandments. They don’t believe in hell and yet they’re more concerned about living in right relationship with God than most Christians I know. This is exactly how it should be.

What if there was no hell? How would that change our lives? How would it change our ministry? How would it change our relationship with God?

Maybe it shouldn’t.

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9 Responses to Hell-Bent on Ministry

  1. jessups says:

    so i stopped everything to get on the “normal” computer to read this. i have to admit i was a bit scared that there would be something you didn’t “like” and wanted to “warn” about. to my surprise and JOY, i was so so so blessed to FINALLY (maybe for the first time) have a friend, that doesn’t agree, yet embraces and loves us just the same! i can’t tell you how blessed i am by you!

    • Rina says:

      Oh, Amy, I’m truly inspired by you – so very much! You and your family are so passionate about embracing others and loving them regardless of their beliefs, it’s so encouraging. You have this amazing ability to make people feel so welcomed and loved, I feel like I could learn so much from you. You make it so easy to be your friend and I honestly pray that God will teach me how to be more like you in many, many ways.

  2. dp says:

    Another thought: if Christians do what they do because of a fear of hell, isn’t that the wrong motivation? If my children do things they ought to do, what I expect them to do, because they are afraid of punishment, then I would say our relationship is not right. If, on the other hand, they do things to please me because of the love in our relationship with one another (and they love me because I first loved them), then I think that is a better testimony to the power of love.

    If there is no hell, then we can imagine a loving Father who is bringing his children to the fullness of the knowledge of Him and His love, a loving Father whose children seek to please Him, to abide within His will because of His love which has become their love. If our Father is not restricted by time, then there is nothing to prevent Him as a perfect parent from bringing all of his children to perfection; He has no need for everlasting hell. What a thought!

    • Rina says:

      DP, I agree 100% regarding a fear of hell being incorrect motivation for the things that we do (or don’t do, as the case may be)! And while I do have issues with the theology, the fact is that we shouldn’t enter into a relationship with our Heavenly Father because we’re afraid of what will happen to us if we DON’T. We should enter a relationship with Him because we love Him and recognize His love for us and want to experience that relationship.

  3. thinkingdj says:

    If we weren’t living our lives afraid of the punishment, and seeking only the reward, maybe we would be freed to simply live in love. I don’t know you or your friends, but I would guess that your non-hell-believing friends openly minister to others simply because they are eager to share the love and joy that they feel in their personal relationship with God. Rather than preventing future punishment and seeking future reward, they are seeking to share love now, today, when the world needs it.

  4. Connie says:

    I, too, was raised Catholic and have struggled with religion all my adult life. I am learning so very much from you and your family and friends. It is slowly giving me a whole new perspective on life, love, God, Christ and our reason for even existing at all. For some time I have struggled with the thoughts – If all that happens is we die in the end anyway, than what is the point of even trying?
    You will never know how much you have touched my heart.

    • Rina says:

      Connie, I still struggle with religion and many of the things you mentioned. I wrote about some of those struggles almost three years ago in a blog post (http://blog.rinamarie.com/2010/10/23/that-i-may-gain-christ/)
      A lot has changed since then, but I still look at myself and my relationship with Jesus and still see how anorexic it is – how little I know Him, how little I relate to Him as a person and not just a figurehead (so to speak.)
      I have come a long way – God has BROUGHT me a long way – but I still have such a long way to go. Thank you for sharing your struggles, Connie. I’m glad to know we can support each other in this, and I want you to know that I’m praying for you. I love you!

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