Monday, March 12, 2012

Is God Mean? Why Does God Kill People? Why Does God Send People to Hell?

Have you ever thought God was mean? Have you ever heard someone say God is mean?
I hear people say that a lot. And I see people say it even more.  I get on the internet for about an hour every day and I go to these websites where people are asking questions about God or religion or the Bible, and I try to answer them as best as I can. I find that people are usually more willing to talk anonymously over the internet about their questions than they would be to go talk to a pastor in person. It’s just easier sometimes to talk to someone while you’re typing on the computer and you don’t have to be face-to-face with someone you don’t know, talking about your deepest feelings.
So, I get on the computer and I talk to these random people, and one question I get over and over again is, Why is God so mean? And they’ll talk about how God killed people in the Old Testament and they’ll talk about how God is mean when He sends people to Hell. And they can’t love God, they can’t come to God, they can’t trust God, because they think that He’s just so mean.
So I want us to talk a little about God’s supposed meanness.
First, we know that God very rarely chooses who dies and who lives today. But in the Bible, and in the Old Testament particularly, we do have stories of God striking people dead for various sins that they had committed. The question people ask is, Wait a minute. Isn’t that murder? God told us not to murder in the Ten Commandments, but there He is murdering people. God’s a hypocrite. And He’s mean too!
Well, is God a hypocrite for killing people when He told us not to kill people? No. God told us not to kill people. That doesn’t mean He can’t kill people. God gives the rules, and He doesn’t have to play by the same set of rules that He gives us. It’s like a parent and a child. You tell your child they can’t stay up past a certain time. But that doesn’t mean you can’t stay up past that time. As the parent, you have the right to give your child rules that you don’t necessarily have to follow yourself.
It’s the same way with God. He’s God. He’s playing by a whole different set of rules than the ones He’s given us.
So, you say, Okay, but isn’t it still mean for God to kill people? It depends on how you look at it. Is it mean when the state executes someone? Or is it justice?
You see, the only reason we think it’s mean for God to kill people is that we don’t take sin seriously enough. God is holy. God is perfect. God says that anytime you sin, you deserve death. He doesn’t tolerate sin at all. God is justice.
The cool thing is that God is also love. And God usually gives people a way out of their punishment. He usually gives them a way not to be put to death. In the Old Testament, that meant killing an animal, sacrificing an animal, instead of you. In the New Testament, that means killing Christ instead of you. Something still has to die for your sin. That’s how serious sin is. God isn’t just going to forget about it. Justice has to be done. Something or someone has to be punished.
Now, I said that God usually gives us a way out of our death penalty. In the Old Testament, He usually let people sacrifice the animal. But that doesn’t mean that God always had to do that. Sometimes, when He struck someone dead, He was simply exercising His justice without giving people a way out of it.
We don’t like that. We want God to always be love and to show love because that feels better for us. But sometimes, God chooses to show His justice instead. The Bible says that the beginning of wisdom is fearing God, and it doesn’t say that for nothing. We should be afraid of God. Because if He chose to, and He has done it in the past, He would be completely within His rights to destroy us all. Because we have all sinned. We are all deserving of death according to His perfect standards.
But people will still say, Yeah, but God can’t just kill people like that. Yes, He can. He’s God. He created us. He owns us. If you make something, if you own something, you can destroy it, and no one can say that you can’t. We are God’s. We are His property. He can do with us what He wants. We’re just lucky that most of the time, God wants to show us His grace and mercy and forgiveness and love more than He wants to show us His justice and His wrath.
Okay. So, God can kill people because He’s not playing by the same rules He gave us; He’s exercising justice according to His perfect standards, and He can do what He wants with His own creation.
So that’s kind of the hard line. Now, let’s talk a little about Hell. Is God being mean when He sends people to Hell? 
Hell is not God being mean. Hell is God giving people what they want. God doesn’t want people to go to Hell. God wants us all to be in Heaven with Him.
Listen to what Jesus says in
Matthew 18:12-14 - "What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. In the same way your Father in Heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost.”
And God says in

Ezekiel 18:23, 31-32 – “‘Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked?’ declares the Sovereign LORD. ‘Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live? Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone,’ declares the Sovereign LORD. ‘Repent and live!’”

God does not want to send people to Hell, but He does give them free will. God gives us all a choice. We can be with Him, or we can refuse to be with Him. If someone will not turn to Him and accept His forgiveness, then they’ve basically said that they don’t want to be with God in Heaven. They’ve said, “I don’t want anything to do with You.” And since God will not force them to go to Heaven, there is only one alternative for them. They’ve decided that they don’t want to go to Heaven. But they have to go somewhere when they die. That somewhere, that alternative, is Hell. If they have rejected Heaven, then they have chosen Hell by default.

And it’s not that God has made Hell a particularly bad and painful place on purpose. It’s just that Hell is the only place where God isn’t there. People have rejected God. They’ve said they don’t want anything to do with God. And so He stays completely out of Hell. But because God stays completely out of Hell, that means that there is nothing good in Hell.
James 1:17 – “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father.”
God is the source of everything good. He created love and happiness and peace and comfort. So, if God stays out of Hell, then none of those good things are in Hell. You see, Earth is kind of the middle ground. On Earth, we can experience those good things from God a little bit. In Heaven, we’ll experience those things to the max, because that’s where God is. He’s right there, and He’s made everything perfect in Heaven. But in Hell, we can’t experience any of those good things God has created, because God is not there. So, instead, we experience the opposite of those good things. Instead of love, we feel only hate. Instead of happiness, there is only despair. Instead of peace, there is frustration. And instead of comfort, there is pain.
That’s the choice people are making when they reject God. They are choosing to go to the place where they won’t need to have anything to do with God. It’s just that they might not know what they’re really choosing.
But I say that Hell is for those people who choose to go there. I want us to understand that most people do not go to Hell. In order to go to Hell, you have to choose to reject God. You have to hear about God and then, willingly ignore it or reject it.
An unborn baby has not rejected God and so, they do not go to Hell. A mentally handicapped person who can’t understand about God has not made a rational decision to reject God and so, they are not going to Hell. A person who has never heard about the real God has not made a decision to reject the real God and so, they are not going to Hell. Most people in the history of the world are not going to Hell because they did not have the opportunity to believe in or reject God. God understands that and so, most of them will be in Heaven.
So, is God mean? No, God is not mean. God is simply exercising His justice on the rare occasions that He does kill someone. And He allows us to choose where we will go when we die. So, no, God is not mean. In fact, I’d say God is incredibly gracious by not killing us all the second we sin and sending us all to Hell, even though by His perfect standards, that is exactly what we deserve.
God is incredibly gracious to us because He offers us a way to be forgiven. God is incredibly gracious to us because most of the time, He chooses to show us love and patience rather than His wrath. God is incredibly gracious to us because He gave us a place to go other than Hell. God is incredibly gracious to us because He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die for us, and to take our punishment for us rather than putting us all to death the moment we sin. God is incredibly gracious to us. Amen? Amen.

Discussion Questions:

Q1. If God gives us rules to follow, and we break those rules, does God have any obligation to forgive us?
A1. No. God does not have to forgive us if He doesn’t want to. He makes the rules, and we have to listen to Him. He doesn’t owe us a second chance. We owe Him our life and our obedience. He’s God. The cool thing is that God does want to forgive us and to give us a second chance because that is His personality. God is love.

Q2. If God only showed love, and never showed His justice, how would people behave differently toward Him?
A2. Everyone could do whatever they wanted without any consequences. They would see God as a push-over instead of someone we need to listen to and obey.
It would be like the Congress passing laws but the police never enforcing them. People would ignore the laws.
People would not respect God or take Him seriously.

Q3. If God only showed His justice, and never showed His love or forgiveness, would people behave differently toward Him?
A3. They would resent God as being too harsh and could not love Him.

Q4. How does Jesus’ death show us God’s love and His justice?
A4. It shows us God’s love because God gives us a way to be forgiven for our sins and to not die and go to Hell ourselves. It shows us God’s justice because someone is still being punished for our sins. Our sins aren’t being ignored. God is still punishing sin. It’s just that the punishment is being taken by someone other than ourselves.

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