Friday, December 28, 2007

Go to Hell

My blog has been little more than a family scrapbook since we moved here. It's just too much work to actually write something thoughtful . . . and, besides, I know that most of my 12 or 13 readers primarily come here for photos of MelodyJoy. Nonetheless, I thought I'd try to branch out again . . .

Last Sunday as part of his sermon, our pastor read Romans 9:1-3. In this passage, Paul writes:

"In the presence of Christ, I speak with utter truthfulness-I do not lie-and my conscience and the Holy Spirit confirm that what I am saying is true. My heart is filled with bitter sorrow and unending grief for my people, my Jewish brothers and sisters. I would be willing to be forever cursed -- cut off from Christ! -- if that would save them. "

Certainly it's commendable, to say the least, that Paul carries such a burden for his countrymen. His heartfelt emotions couldn't be expressed more clearly. But am I reading that correctly? What does "forever cursed" and "cut off from Christ" mean, other than to spend eternity in hell? I find it hard to comprehend that someone who really understands what hell is--and I suppose Paul would have a better grasp than most--would be willing to go there for any reason, even the salvation of another. Am I being shallow?

I've often thought I'd be willing to die to save someone's life or to secure someone's eternity in heaven, because despite all my flaws and my inconsistent spiritual walk, I do have confidence that I am saved and will go to heaven after I die. Now I've never actually been faced that that decision, of course, but I do think I'd give my life for another. (Please don't ask me if I'd be willing to endure extended pain and suffering for another . . . that is much harder for me to consider.)

However, while I'd die for someone--even for a stranger maybe--I can't imagine agreeing to spend eternity in hell for the sake of another, even for a loved one. On the one hand, I feel guilty for this. On the other, I think this position is evidence that I take God's Word literally and believe what it says. Hell is a horrible place of never ending misery and torture; of separation from friends, loved ones and God. If I believe hell is real and if it's as awful as I understand it to be, it's almost impossible for me to think of voluntarily choosing to go there, even in exchange for the highest of rewards for someone else.

Call me selfish . . . I'm just sayin' it like it is. Am I off-base? What am I missing here? I guess that's why he's called St. Paul and I'm just plain old Palmer.

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