“I’m not a universalist, but I hope God is.”
One of my mentors, Tony Kriz, shared with a group of us last summer. Those words have haunted me ever since. A Universalist is someone who believes God will someday allow all people into heaven. It’s a theological position with some reasonable support but widely rejected by most of Christianity.
What stuck with me was the hope Tony is willing to hold.
What bothers me is when other’s reject this hope.
A few years back, I was sitting in a large auditorium listening to a sermon from a mega church pastor. He was quoting from various atheist scientists about their reasons for not believing in God. After he was done sharing their thoughts, he turned over his paper, looked up to the rest of the congregation and proclaimed with a wry smile on his face,
“Well, all these atheists are dead so they know they’re wrong now. Too bad it’s too late!”
The crowd of about 700 erupted in laughter at the pastor’s joke. I sat there stunned not only at his attempt at humor, but that the crowd found it funny. Why are we laughing at the possibility other’s are going to hell?
I Told You So And Other Childish Reactions
Something has gone profoundly wrong with how we live out our faith if we celebrate the possible wrongness of others. it wreaks of arrogance and self-righteousness. It simply does not line up with the Apostle Paul who was willing to go to hell if it meant heaven for another. (1) This attitude flies in the face of so many of Jesus’ stories about eternity. He constantly told stories warning those who thought they were in. Conversely, He had good news for those who assumed they were out. My favorite of these stories is about a religious leader and sinner going to church.
He told his next story to some who were complacently pleased with themselves over their moral performance and looked down their noses at the common people: “Two men went up to the Temple to pray, one a Pharisee, the other a tax man. The Pharisee posed and prayed like this: ‘Oh, God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, crooks, adulterers, or, heaven forbid, like this tax man. I fast twice a week and tithe on all my income.’
“Meanwhile the tax man, slumped in the shadows, his face in his hands, not daring to look up, said, ‘God, give mercy. Forgive me, a sinner.’”
Jesus commented, “This tax man, not the other, went home made right with God. If you walk around with your nose in the air, you’re going to end up flat on your face, but if you’re content to be simply yourself, you will become more than yourself.” -Luke 18:9-14
You can think your right and not realize how far away from God you really are. You can think your far away and be surprised by how close He is. We make terrible gate keepers but we can become adequate sign posts. Good News should make us compassionate, not cruel. The only necessary ingredient is hope.
Room At The Table
Sometimes I wonder if the one thing a Christian must do is hope. We hope for a voice for the silenced, a home for the homeless, and a refuge for the vulnerable. We hope for those far away and we hope for those who are near. We hope to be surprised by grace. We hope God is better than we’ve been told. We hope there is more room at the table. We hope for his kingdom to come and his will be done.
I hope he’s preparing a place for me, and you’ll be my next door neighbor.
The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)
- Romans 9:3