You hear about the fear of hell kind of off and on in Christian circles.
I read an article months about wherein one of the pastors at a church out west was sharing how he came to "salvation." He commented that, "fear is a perfectly legitimate way to enter the kingdom of God." I remember thinking that's probably true.
Last night during the midweek sermon, Pastor was talking about that battle people go through at the point of making a decision to follow Christ. On the one hand are lots of things: your friends think you're an idiot; you have to change things about your life; your mum will think you've joined the IRA (I didn't have that problem myself). On the other hand was one thing: you could go to hell. I remember wondering what that balance would look like.
This morning I read this. I imagine the "perceived immediate benefit" is either a prosperity gospel or the avoidance of hell.
Before I said Yes to Holy Spirit's nagging, I didn't believe in hell. Christians could read scripture and "testimonies" of hell until they were blue in the face and I'd still curse God just to prove it didn't bother me. You can't really scare someone about something they don't believe in.
So I started to think about that period of a few months leading up to my rebirth. If it wasn't the fear of eternal damnation, what was it?
Aside from the obvious-to-the-Christians answers like hearing the word of God via CDs this weird guy kept bringing me, and abundant prayer being offered up on my behalf, do you know what it was?
The Passion of the Christ.
Seriously. Yes, the Mel Gibson movie. My mom and I went with said weird guy and his weird church to a screening in Crystal Lake, and I left the theater with this weighty decision on my mind (spirit). I couldn't care less about hell, but I needed to know if what I saw in that movie was true. It was suddenly so grave.
I didn't even realize what I was going through until about a week later at a show at my favorite punk house. I wasn't drinking, which sparked a conversation. This one particular guy - whom everyone very much admired - was running through every anti-woman thing he knew about Christianity and the Bible. About the time he got to "Did you know the Bible says that women aren't supposed to talk in church?" I realized my dilemma.
"That's not it, Eric. I'm not trying to decide whether or not I agree with it, it's whether or not it's true."
If it was true, then I was wrong and I could fix that. It would be painful, but not as painful as what I'd seen. If that Man really did take my place then I owed Him something.
Maybe I'm the only one who finds this interesting - or maybe you love someone who doesn't care about threats of hell. Here's my advice: Truth sets people free, not fear.