Many years ago, I worried that a friend of mine was going to hell. I wasn’t sure on the exact criteria that sent us one way or the other, but I knew he was going down.
I didn’t want it to happen.
I’m going to call him Tony, but he could be Paul, Jim, Ralph, or even Sam.
Tony did some awful things, but I liked him. So I checked the rules, looking for an out, an exception, a technicality. I consulted a bunch of lawyers. I read the fine print.
Tony was definitely going to hell.
That upset me. I wanted him with me.
I thought about his eternity.
The Bible talks about a lake of fire.
Imagine that. Every day you wake up and it’s the same damn lake of fire.
I thought about his beard. He had one of those full, rich, Zach Galifianakis type beards that seemed to grow in an afternoon. And I couldn’t help thinking that his beard was going to be hell in hell. Beards are fine in heaven, where’s there’s always a light breeze, but that wasn’t Tony’s destiny.
No, day after day, so close to the flames, it wasn’t going to be easy where he was heading.
Suddenly, I thought to myself that I had it wrong. Tony wasn’t a saint, but maybe God was more forgiving than me. Perhaps Tony was going to heaven and I just misread the rules.
I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt. But that raised more questions.
So if Tony isn’t going there … who is?
Does anyone deserve to go?
I thought about “the worst guy in the world.” He kills millions. He hates his Mom. He kicks dogs.
This is an asshole. Way worse than Tony in my book.
So I started thinking about this guy. And I wondered.
Did he deserve hell?
So I did a poll. I got a bunch of my friends together, described this prick, and asked them if he deserved hell.
“Yes,” they all agree, clearly miffed by the dog part.
Surely, the worst guy in the world deserves hell.
But then I started wondering again.
My life has been short. My birthdays seem to flit by, faster than my candles flicker out. Ten, twenty, thirty, forty years just zipped by. T.S. Eliot measured his life out in coffee spoons. My decades are doled out in teaspoons.
If I ever hit the century mark, I’ll look back and wonder where the time went.
In short, we don’t live that long. Some of us much shorter than others. How can we be judged based on this Timbit of a life?
How can we send someone to hell forever and ever and ever … based on this pittance of a life?
This can’t be what God intended. We have it all wrong. Maybe God is sitting up in heaven shaking his head, wondering how we could have got hell so wrong.
And I realized. We need a kinder hell.
My book – Lovers, God , and Eggs Benny – is the journey that Simon, Tony, Kate and others travel along … asking questions … making mistakes … breaking the rules … and finding forgiveness.
I hope it makes you think.