Go Ahead and Say It

So…this post has been floating around in my head for quite some time and I’ve been putting off writing it.  (Thank you to my friend Sarah for telling me to get back to blogging.)  I think I’ve put it off because I fear this may be the post that sends some of my readers packing.   I do however believe strongly in what I’m about to write so at least I should earn some points for keeping it real.

Here’s the deal..talk to your kids about hell. There. I said it.  I did not say, H-e-l-l.  I did not say, H-E-double hockey sticks.  I said Hell.  It’s a real place with a real name.  It’s a terrible place and I do not want one soul to go there.  I am not a fan of scaring anyone into a system of belief.  In fact, I think that is wrong and well, scary.  I do not go to a church that preaches on Hell each Sunday.  It really is not even mentioned very often at my church.  Hell is not a subject that just comes up around the water cooler and I get that.  I’m not trying to change that but when it comes to the little souls who live in our home, I think it’s time for a change.

Here’s what got me thinking… Recently I’ve been in some circles in which the subject was brought up.  I observed responses to it that were both strange and interesting.  In one situation, I heard a talented preschool teacher say she had to call a student’s parents about his inappropriate behavior – the child had used the word, “hell” at school.  When I asked her how the student used the word, she said he was describing Hell as a place where you go if you don’t believe in Jesus.  He said it to another student at his (Christian) school while on the playground.  For me, this hardly warrants a parental phone call.  (As a former teacher, I’ve heard a lot worse said on a playground.)  My other experience happened in church, when our Pastor taught the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. (Luke 16:19-31)  When he said the word, “hell”, I observed parents throughout the church look at their kids with that, “uh-oh, he said a dirty word” look.

Both of these situations left me feeling puzzled.  Why is it treated as wrong to talk about hell?  I really don’t have an answer to that question.  I know there are very inappropriate uses of that word, which I abhor.  To tell someone to go to hell is perhaps the meanest, most callous, and most ignorant thing a person could ever say.  In no way, would I ever defend that kind of use of the word.  What I’m talking about is just an honest discussion about the place known as Hell.  For people who believe in the saving work of Jesus Christ on the cross, we have the hope of a very real destination after physical death – Heaven.  It is the place where we will see our Savior face to face.  Perhaps that alone is the very definition of Heaven.  The Bible also describes it as the place where suffering is completely absent, where all things are mind-blowingly new and restored, where fellowship is the theme, and joy is the song.  I’m smiling as I type all those things because I really am so excited to experience Heaven.  I love to talk with my kids about Heaven. I love their ideas of streets made of “treasure”, endless supplies of popsicles, bikes with tires that never go flat, unlimited turns in bouncy houses without getting sweaty, days at the beach with no need for sunscreen, and being with God and the people they love most forever.  I love how real it is to them.  I love driving along the now pollen-covered streets, and hearing one of them say, “there won’t be allergies in heaven”.  

But how can I teach them the reality of Heaven and ignore the reality of Hell?  I want them to know that there is no fellowship in Hell.  There is no relief, no laughter, no camaraderie, no fun, and no hope in Hell.  It is final separation from God which means final separation from all things good or light.  This is most definitely scary but it is not a scare tactic.  In my system of beliefs, which is based on the Bible, it is just plain truth.  There is no scandal in me discussing it with my kids.  If it was, then I’m just as scandalous when I talk to them about Heaven.

Here’s the scandal… I was born into this world in a desperate situation.  I have a desire for wrong that burns like a wildfire, ruthlessly destroying all in its path.  Because of that, I deserved the death penalty. Thankfully I did not get it because a holy God put on flesh, came to Earth, lived a perfect life, and died a criminal’s death in my place.  He erased the punishment I deserved by serving it for me.  He did not stay dead as did all other leaders of the world’s religions.  He resurrected, thus defeating death and proving life eternal.  His life is historically documented; the Earth is forever changed.  Why did He do it?… To please His Father, to defeat the Devil, to save sinners like me.

We all have many desires for our children but for me, the one that trumps them all is this: I desire for my kids to be in heaven.  God is responsible for their souls.  I am responsible to God.

Lord, I am weak and dumb but You are strong and smart. Teach me your truth.  Let it reign in my mind and in our home.  Thank you. Amen