The Price Is Too Steep
Excerpted from my book, Leaving and Finding Jesus / Chapter Ten: Yes, I Sure Hope So
For about two weeks after I released the article in which I’d responded to the question, “Can you be saved after you die,” with the answer, “Yes, I sure hope so,” I lived oblivious to the nuclear-sized bomb I’d dropped within our church circles—especially with some of the leadership in our church.
I had no idea how offensive the article was until a pastor friend reached out so we could “catch up” over coffee.
“Do you actually believe you can be saved after you die?” He asked, minutes into our conversation. It was less a question and more an accusation. I sensed what I said next could affect our friendship, so I spoke carefully. “In light of my growing trust in God’s reconciling love, yes…” Then acknowledging my article as the source of his question, I smiled good-naturedly and added, “…I sure hope so.”
He nodded seriously. There was no return smile, just concern and—anger. “He’s offended,” I realized as he gathered himself. Then, to his credit, he confronted me—not from his offense but with a sincere concern for my immediate and, quite possibly, eternal well-being.
“Jason, I share your hope, but….”
Then he told me the heartbreaking story of how his dad, at age 80, died in a violent car crash. “The car rolled several times, and he died of a broken neck,” he said.
“Jason, my siblings, and I shared the gospel with him for 20 years, and for 20 years, he resisted. He wanted nothing to do with God. To my knowledge, he never accepted Jesus as his Lord and Savior before the accident.”
Then, in great anguish, my pastor friend looked at me and said, “But I’m hopeful he’s in heaven—” I began to respond like that orthodox priest who encouraged the boy to pray for Judas. With a deep hope in the reconciling nature of the love of my best friend, Jesus, I earnestly said, “Amen! Me too–”
He waved his hand brusquely to hush me. Then continued with a corrective tone. “I’m hopeful my siblings and I shared enough of the gospel over the years that he knew to cry out to God before he died. We have no reason to believe he would have, but I’m hopeful.”
The cruelty of his statement shook me. As he continued, my heart broke for him.
“I’m hopeful that before he lost control of the car, before it flipped, before his neck broke, he was able to get out a prayer—to cry out to God. And I’m hopeful it was enough.”
My heart grew heavier each time he emphasized the word hope.
“In light of the circumstances, I’m not sure that his prayer would be enough,” he lamented, “But I’m hopeful, you know, that God heard him. I’m hoping he is in heaven. But…”
Then he went on to agonize over the likelihood that his dad was not in heaven.
I was heartsick and disturbed by the theological certainty he placed in the punishing nature of God—a certainty that was clearly crushing him. He was tormented over whether he’d “evangelized” enough. He wondered aloud if a prayer said in the horror of a violent car crash would be enough.
“What am I still lacking?” That was the cruel and punishing road my pastor friend traveled. He seemed to believe God counted his dad’s sins against him—and his dad had come up lacking.
My pastor friend’s pain was real, traumatizing, and tragically unnecessary.
You see, what he described to me wasn’t Christian hope. It was fatalism.
His hope wasn’t placed in the measureless love of Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting people’s sins, rejections, cruelties, confusion, delusions, or capacity to be deceived against them. His “hope” was placed in a heavenly Father who looks away—a punishing god who must bend the knee to my pastor friend’s finite understanding.
Like so many of our Christian leaders today, he gave me the religion of separation. He presented the retributive idea that all humanity is born into Adam, but it takes a specific prayer to get us into Christ. He gave me the religion of transaction, and, like many of our Christian leaders today, he twisted the language of relationship into a contradiction of Greater Love.
My pastor friend approached salvation through the unforgiving nature of time. And for his dad, when it came to God’s reconciling love, time had most likely run out. And this is the point at which a retributive theological belief about God is exposed as perverse.
You see, for my pastor friend’s dad, when it came to God’s reconciling love, time was finite. But when it came to God’s punishment, time is infinite, and his dad was most likely gonna spend an eternity tormented by fire in some place where Greater Love couldn’t reach him.
I felt crushed for my pastor friend and disgusted that he believed this bullshit about our friend Jesus, so I challenged His God lens.
“Bro, you just told me that your faith is in a heavenly Father who likely condemned your earthly father to eternal damnation. Man, the price you are paying to follow a God who punishes is too steep. For you to be a Christian, your dad must suffer an eternity in hell.”
Then I told him about my hope. “I have placed my hope in the belief that God is like Jesus; I have put my hope in the One who came to save men’s lives, not destroy them. (1) My hope is that God is in Christ reconciling your dad to Himself, not counting his rejection or brokenness against him.
While I don’t know what that could mean for your dad, I am convinced this hope is the joy of his, yours, and my salvation; the very joy Jesus set before Him while He endured the cross.” (2)
Then, with deepening faith in the reconciling love of God, I referenced the question he had confronted me with, “Can you be saved after you die? I asked.
And then answered, “Yes, I sure hope so.”
1 Luke 9:56
2 Hebrews 12:2
1 John 17:21
This article is excerpted from my book, Leaving and Finding Jesus
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Bro tried to email you at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com. Spam filter is too tight !!!
Hey, my Familystory account is down for a few days, sorry.
And you’re missing an ‘l’ it’s firstname.lastname@example.org
That should work.
Thank you. I will use the correct email this time !!!
(Uhhh thats a little embarrassing)