Monday, March 19, 2012

Did My Grandma Go to Hell?


He self-identified as  a Fundamentalist Christian. He held to the standard line: Unless you accept Jesus as your personal Savior you will burn in hell for all eternity.

I’m a Lutheran, and I couldn’t help but disagree. Whether I accept Jesus doesn’t matter nearly as much as whether Jesus accepts me. We Lutherans are big on grace. This business of “accepting Jesus” smacks of salvation by works.

I told him about my grandmother, who loved me and whom I loved. She never, to my knowledge, accepted Jesus as her personal Savior. Is she burning in hell?

To his credit, he admitted that he was in no position to judge, but yes, he said, if she had not accepted Jesus, grandma was in hell.

I told him that a God who would condemn my grandma to eternal suffering was neither loving nor just. Such a God is a tyrant, a moral monster, and undeserving of worship. I personally wouldn’t condemn my grandmother to hell and this, I said, makes me better than the God he was proclaiming. Why would I worship a God who is not better than I am?

It’s an old argument and one that has been hashed over many times. We didn’t really get anywhere.

Last summer I presided at the funeral of a woman who had been murdered by her ex-boyfriend. She had made some bad choices in her life, choices that led to a downward cycle of abusive relationships, homelessness, and eventually her death. She was trying, once more, to get her life together when she was killed.

I had known her and liked her. She did me a kindness once. Her family loved her and mourned her death.

I’m not sure why, but last night this thought crossed my mind: Is there anyone who is so far gone that no one can love them?

I suspect that there are people who visit the murderer in prison. Even killers have families. I don’t think anyone is beyond love.

And though human love gets messed up sometimes (sin messes everything up), Christians proclaim that there is One who is perfect in love. No one is so far gone that God cannot love them.

I won’t pretend to know the depths of God’s mind. I have too much respect for God’s sovereignty to be a universalist. God may save or condemn whom God chooses. Even me. But I trust in God’s grace for my own salvation. And my grandma’s. And the murdered woman’s.

And I believe that no one is beyond the reach of God’s love.

God’s riches, wisdom, and knowledge are so deep! They are as mysterious as his judgments, and they are as hard to track as his paths! (Romans 11:33 CEB)


  1. Sure... I go away for a few days, and you post a BLOG A DAY!!!!

    I totally agree with you (imagine that!). God showed His love for us, well, just as it says, "there is NO GREATER love than one should give his life for his friend." God loves us with the highest of loves, the deepest of loves, the widest of loves, the broadest of loves. Like you, THAT'S what I trust in.

    What about all the people who lived before Jesus? They COULDN'T "accept Jesus."

    I guess the one thing I would say is that I don't think God is going to include anyone in heaven who doesn't want to be there - who doesn't want to be with Him.

    But as I write that, I wouldn't even say THAT for sure!

    I WOULD say that my faith and belief is that God will never do anything that in ANY way violates or falls short of the greatest Love that ever was or ever can ever be.

    Because Jesus died for ALL us, God CAN have mercy on ALL of us.

  2. Would it be heaven if you didn't want to be there?

    1. There is that too!!!

      It just seems to me that God, the author of all things, can never be exceeded in Love, or Mercy, or Justice or Holiness.

      However God choose to act, there can and will never be any one of us, His creations, who could say, "Well, I would have been more loving... or fair... or just... or merciful."