1 John 4:18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.
I had a very odd experience when I was involved in an online ministry school, doing a teaching about healing. After the session, I stayed online for a little bit longer, to answer a few questions. One of the attendees asked about my future visit to the UK, and how they promised to buy me a beer when I got there. I accepted, and then one of my friends jested at me about it saying, “Wow, you drink English beer? You’re going to hell!” We all laughed at the statement and went on to wrap up the conversation.
Apparently, this did not go well with one of the older people in the classroom, who wrote me a scolding email about how our little joke was not taken well. That we were, in their eyes, disrespecting how serious hell was, and that hell is not to be made fun of. They continued going on about the multiple billions of people who are now consciously suffering and we should honor their suffering by taking hell seriously.
At first I wasn’t going to respond to my friend, because sometimes if a person is so entrenched in a position they cannot recognize the larger issue. At that point, it doesn’t always make sense to respond. None the less, I responded, and I pointed out, that my ability to joke at the prospect of my going to hell because of drinking beer, didn’t make light of hell, but made light of the idea that I could ever go there. It was showing my complete and utter confidence in God, and that my going to hell is no longer a reality for myself.
I went on to explain that one of the signs that you’re resting and secure in the Love of God and his finished work, is a complete absence of fear about going to hell. That fear is so far removed from us, that we can joke about many of the things that Religious people think sends people to hell. My friends and myself were in fact, making fun of the idea that drinking beer was more powerful to send us to hell, than the Finished Work of Jesus Christ keep us from hell. Now that is funny!
The Apostle Paul understood this freedom from fear of going to hell.
Romans 9:2-3 That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh:
Paul desired to be accursed from Christ, that his own countrymen, the Jews, would part take in what was offered to them. All while knowing that even his heart-felt desire to be separated from Jesus, could not in anyway undo the finished work of Christ and secure his destiny. He was so confident in God’s Work, he knew his feelings were irrelevant and he could plainly express his desire to be accursed for his fellow Jews.
Now I am not saying Hell is not real, nor am I saying that it is not serious. What I am saying is that, if as a believer you are still struggling with fear of hell, your understanding of God’s love and the finished work of Jesus is flawed. The more serious we hold to the idea of hell as a possible future for us, is more a reflection of our own fears of going to hell, rather than a confidence in Jesus Christ’s work. Our confidence in Christ can be so much so, that the only time going to hell is mentioned, is as a joke.
1 John 4:17 Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world.