Is hell an eternal punishment?

Hell and Isolation+Economics

Recently someone told me that she did not want to go to Sunday school because she was a single woman and the class was about solving marital conflict. isolationThe discussion went further on to reveal that she felt extremely isolated in the class because of it. She went on to explain that she felt all alone in a sea of happy married people since she was the only single person in the group. During this conversation, I could not stop thinking about two different things.

The first was that I had felt that feeling of isolation before. Thinking back to my time in Costa Rica, I can totally identify with it. When I was living there, I did not speak Spanish. When I was learning the language, it was the same conversation over and over again until I mastered different parts of the language. The problem with this is that when thrust into another culture without many support systems it did and does lead to isolation. church.jpgI can remember this one Sunday morning church service when something was going on, the spirit was really moving and everyone was having this emotional time…everyone but me. I remember being kind of resentful about the whole thing, asking myself, “Why do I have to miss out?”

The second thing that I thought of was from the book by C.S. Lewis called The Great Divorce. This book introduced the idea that hell was a place of self-made isolation. This is something that I see all around me. Family members that have chosen isolation because of forgiveness or stubbornness. Kids experiencing isolation because their parents do not have the time or “tool box” to build deep relationships.  These are all examples of people living in hell.

I am a big believer in hell. I am also a big believer in the idea that people make for themselves little hells of their own on this earth. The economics of this are simple. Vilfredo Pareto observed in 1896 that 80%  of the land was owned by 20% of the people. This pattern of ownership and control has also been observed in other areas and is referred to as the Pareto Principal. Well, the inverse of this is also true. 80% of the people are fighting for only 20%  of the left overs. That is a pretty hard battle, especially for the bottom 20% who control between 1% and 2%. No doubt that those at the bottom feel victimized and totally resentful of those who have control of all of the resources. Some of them go beyond feeling that way and protest. Others are eaten alive by it and go to shoot up a school.  We see other effects of this rampant in our country and in our world. Suicide is at an all-time high. medicate.jpgPeople medicate themselves with Netflix, pornography, alcohol and drugs. (And people wonder WHY we have an opioid problem.)

And what is the church’s role?

Proverbs 24:11-12 New International Version (NIV)

11 Rescue those being led away to death;
hold back those staggering toward slaughter.
12 If you say, “But we knew nothing about this,”
does not he who weighs the heart perceive it?
Does not he who guards your life know it?
Will he not repay everyone according to what they have done?

The culture around us is getting farther and farther from God and the church is becoming less and less of a light in this present darkness. One of the reasons for this is because the church has bought into this social justice narrative. But with tremendous problems there are also tremendous opportunities. We have the chance, the privilege to rescue people from hell, to bring them up from the pit. To literally give them a chance to live again.

little boy.jpgCarl Jung once said that “We cannot see God because we cannot look low enough.” Take time this week to look lower. Notice those people who are living in hell. Chances are each of us comes in contact with many each week. Sacrifice some of your time to get to know them. It could be the difference between their salvation and starting their eternity in hell right here on earth.

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