Peacemaking instead of thundering the threats of hell

Yesterday I spent a couple hours visiting with a visionary, someone who imagines building peace as a replacement for making war, someone working to turn those ethereal dreams into palpable reality. He had enough Christianity in him to know about hell and enough humanity to reject it. What kind of dad, he wondered, would plan a conflagration as the final solution to his children’s brokenness? Some of my Christian friends will be more offended by his rejection of fire than they are inspired by his embrace of peace making. But not me. And, I think, not Jesus either.

The older I get, the harder it becomes to imagine damnation. People do horrible, terrible things. People commit evil so monstrous, even the barest, vaguest telling of it turns my stomach and makes me turn away. I am not minimizing the pain, injustice, horror. It’s just that I find it harder and harder to avoid asking the question: What could have possibly pushed or seduced people to do such things? How did the universe arrange itself to give these sons and daughters the DNA, life history and cultural preparation that would allow them to commit such horrors? What mother or father will be able to let their children go as irredeemable monsters for whom extermination is the best solution. 1 Corinthians asserts that every person welcomed into paradise will be changed. Every one will be changed. So who cannot be changed? Who cannot be fixed? Who is so broken that God himself cannot bend the warped bits back into shape?

With all these questions, it’s easy for me to find far more admiration for those who practice peacemaking than outrage at those who deny hell.