From the Archives… 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 don’t believe that there is no hell, and I don’t 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 didn’t believe in the concept of “hell.” Would we still be laboring to “train up our children in the way they should go” if the threat of hell wasn’t looming over them? Would we still be ministering to the “lost,” if their salvation was 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 hell didn’t exist? 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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