Saturday, September 14, 2013

You can go to hell

I'm sure that, at some time in my life, I told someone to "go to hell". For a Christian who believes in eternity and final judgement, it's a pretty bad thing to say to someone. Granted, if I said that to someone, the last thing on my mind was God & eternal destinies. At the time I was probably just ticked off and not at all concerned with spiritual things.

Paul, on the other hand, is quite earnest when he tells the Galatians that the false teachers who have messed them up can "go to hell." Here is what he says,

Galatians 1:6-10 GNTD
"I am surprised at you! In no time at all you are deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ, and are accepting another gospel. Actually, there is no “other gospel,” but I say this because there are some people who are upsetting you and trying to change the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel that is different from the one we preached to you, may he be condemned to hell! We have said it before, and now I say it again: if anyone preaches to you a gospel that is different from the one you accepted, may he be condemned to hell!  Does this sound as if I am trying to win human approval? No indeed! What I want is God's approval! Am I trying to be popular with people? If I were still trying to do so, I would not be a servant of Christ."
Paul is pretty riled up and blasts the Christians at Galatia with both barrels. He says if anyone is preaching a different gospel, different from the gospel of salvation by grace that I (Paul) preached to you, that person can "go to hell", the real hell.

What do you get ticked off at? I get ticked off at people who take cuts in line ahead of me, miss appointments without so much as a phone call to say "sorry I can't come", plastic packaging that has to be open with a box knife. A lot of the stuff I get ticked about is trivial and unimportant. There aren't that many recorded instances of Paul getting angry. He was persecuted, starved, falesly imprisoned and misunderstood. He had some kind of chronic medical problem that bothered him constantly, yet we never hear him complain or get angry over these things. But he gets really pissed off over these false teachers, because they are striking at the heart of the gospel, telling people they have to "be good" in order to "get right" with God. In fact he gets so mad, he says "they can go to hell" - really - really go to hell over this.

I think I care too much about things that don't matter, and don't care enough about the things that really matter. One of the things that really matters is the good news that Jesus died for my sins, rose again and offers forgiveness and new life to anyone who wants it, freely. You can't pay for it, you can't perform for it; all you can do is accept it with thanks.

Lord help me to care more about the things you are passionate about, especially the gospel of Jesus. Amen.