“Hi, Pastor Steve,” Lucy said in the hallway after youth group. “Um . . . there’s something on my mind I’d like to talk with you about if you have a few minutes.”
“Sure!” Pastor Steve said on the way into his office. “Grab a chair.”
“I’ve been trying to share my faith at school, but sometimes my friends throw questions at me that I just can’t answer. One of them is about hell.”
“Let’s hear it,” Pastor Steve encouraged.
“Well, we always talk about how God is so good. But how can a loving God actually send people to hell?”
“Lucy, that’s a great question! And a lot of nonbelievers get tripped up on it. First of all, God really is a God of love. He loves each one of us so much that he gave his only Son to die in our place so we wouldn’t have to! But we have to accept his death as a gift.”
“But still . . . since we know he loves us so much, why would he send us to hell?”
“Well, he loves us so much, he gives us freedom of choice. Would it really be genuine love if God forced us to accept his gift of eternal life?”
Lucy thought for a second. “No, I guess not,” she concluded.
“Right,” Pastor Steve continued. “But in giving us free choice also comes the reality that many people will choose not to serve Christ. They’ll follow the world and do their own thing.”
“And those are the people who will spend eternity in hell?”
“All people who have not repented of their sins and accepted Christ as their personal Savior. And Lucy, that’s not just murderers and drug pushers. That’s me, too!”
“What are you talking about, Pastor Steve?”
“We’re all in the same boat,” he explained. “Every single one of us was born with sin. So if I had never repented and asked Christ to forgive me, I’d be headed for hell, too.”
“So what you’re saying is that a lot good people—not necessarily criminals—will go to hell if they choose to ignore God.”
“Exactly,” Pastor Steve said.
“So it’s not that God is deliberately sending people to hell,” Lucy summed up. “He has clearly provided a way to escape hell by simply following him.”
“Right, Lucy. God doesn’t send anyone to hell. We send ourselves there.”
Know It! : The only reason Christ is delaying his promised and expected return is so more people worldwide can come to know him. It’s God’s will that everyone would follow him and live eternally. But he gives each person the freedom to decide.
Read It! : Matthew 5:29-30; Luke 12:5; 16:19-31; 2 Peter 2:4