Some interesting stuff around the blogosphere around these themes…
Molly at Adventures in Mercy posted about her experience of praying the “sinner’s prayer” as a 4-year-old child. She describes what happened:
“More than any other mental image, I pictured God as my Shepherd and I loved Him. Then one night, a visiting missionary’s child told me that God was going to send me to Hell where I would burn forever in fire.
I already loved God. The only thing that night did was change the way I viewed Him. Instead of a Shepherd with a smiling face, I now had a different image of Him, a schizophrenic one, if you will. On the one hand, there was the good Jesus who loved me. On the other hand, there was the Scary God who would burn me.”
Makeesha adds some great comments to this post in the ensuing discussion of hell, damnation, and the wrath of God. In response to this statement by another commenter, “One thing we do need to realize, however, is that God will send people to hell,” Makeesha answers:
My focus though, of my question, was not about a literal hell but rather if God literally sends people there. It’s an important point in terms of how we view God and view his role in our lives.
Brother Maynard has an interesting post today about the use of rapture as a scare tactic in evangelism. Being of similar age, his post was an interesting trip down memory lane for me. I found the words to “I Wish We’d All Been Ready” intact in the dusty corners of my memory bank.
I also remember seeing (the last time in 1980) “A Thief in the Night” several times and the sequel! Bonus points to the first person to post the name of the sequel without googling. (I confess I had to google it. I only remembered one word of the title.)
Brother Maynard’s words:
“I no longer consider it very loving to attempt to scare the hell out of people. You can get people to pray anything if they’re terrified enough.”
We talked some about this topic in my earlier post, The Wrath of God. There were also a lot of great comments and good discussion in the comment thread of that post. On that post, I said:
“Legalism requires the harsh language of sin, judgment, and wrath. But what if God is completely confident in the power of love to transform a heart without threats and intimidation?”
Another post that I wanted to link to was Steve’s post at Theological Musings, You Might Be Misrepresenting God If… This post is so good because it emphasizes that as God’s ambassadors, it is important that we are aware of the message we send. I will quote his first and last points. Be sure to visit his blog to read the rest.
- If your message is not filled with hope, you might be misrepresenting God.
- If you believe that one’s beliefs about baptism, bible translation, rapture timing, tongues, or a particular interpretation of Genesis 1-2 are absolute essentials to salvation and/or fellowship, you might be misrepresenting God.
A few concluding thoughts…
The most important thing about this whole topic to me is the image of God that is being portrayed. It really matters if the overall image of God being presented to the world by the church is actually a distorted caricature of His true nature.
If our calling is solely to make converts, then sure, go ahead and scare ’em into making a decision. It is expedient for producing submission based upon fear, condemnation, and intimidation.
However, if our calling is to make disciples, then the approach must be different. A disciple is a relationship of surrender based upon trust and love. Therefore, the most important thing is that we accurately represent God to those who would choose to follow Him.