Friday, February 23, 2024

Curious. . .

By now you probably have forgotten that Pope Francis is on record hoping (and perhaps even praying) that hell is empty.  He is certainly not the first to echo that wish and will not be the last.  Of course, such a hope is in conflict with the words of Jesus who warns of that place where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth (and not virtual tears or anguish either).  Yes, I get it.  No Christian except the most heartless and hardened brute relishes the thought of such suffering as hell promises.  Certainly I don't.  But the wishes and hopes and prayers that hell will be empty tend to emanate from people who are, shall we say, less than vigorous in their work of evangelization.  That is the curious oddity that is on my meandering mind today.

The same folks who hope hell has no residents (save the devil and his minions, of course) are likely to presume that everyone will eventually end up in heaven, no truth has the claim to exclusive truth, and the job of religion is to encourage self-expression, self-fulfillment, and self-awareness.  You seldom hear a serious call to repentance from the likes of these folks nor do you encounter the call to enter by the narrow gate and to get there via the narrow way.  No, indeed.  Those who want hell to be a vast but empty chamber of horrors are the one who seem pretty comfortable with your truth.  Without a real and objective Word of God, it hardly seems necessary or convenient to bother well-meaning people with something as trivial as faith, confession, and belief in a righteous but merciful God who takes sin a seriously as death.  Or does it?

No church more worried about offending people more than God is doing much of anything to make the pious wish of an empty hell a reality.  Indeed, the mercy of God is hardly a whim or a benevolent notion but the plan of salvation formed before the foundation of the world for the innocent Son to bear the full weight of the guilt for all sinners.  Therefore, to wish hell's occupants into heaven is to render the atoning work of Christ either a great big mistake or an unnecessary suffering that redeems no one.  In either case, if there was a chance of hell being empty, likely Jesus would have wanted to know before suffering once for all for the sin of all.

If you warm up to the hope that hell is empty, you would think that would energize you to call the world to repentance, to preach nothing but the cross and empty tomb, and to make sure that every heard and everyone believed the Word of the Cross.  Alas, that is not the case.  From liberal Protestantism and its uneasiness for any doctrine to the current Pope and his penchant for substituting his will and purpose for God's, evangelization is hardly a top goal.  Sadly, most of these churches make it almost impossible to need to be converted in order to be saved from sin that is not really all that sinful for a life that might not be better than the one you now have.  

I shudder at the prospect of suffering hell without the covering of Christ over you.  You should, too.  We all should -- especially those are being saved!  But if we shudder, then we should not shrink from proclaiming the Gospel loud and long for it is only by way of this Gospel that any will be saved.  Of course, we hang with the disciples and hearers of Jesus wishing that the number of those who will be saved shall be many -- as close to everyone as can be.  But the only way that they will be saved is if they know of Jesus and Him crucified and risen, if they are nurtured and sustained in this faith by the Word preached and the Sacraments administered, and if they are willing to surrender their own broken righteousness for the perfect righteousness of Christ He gives as gift and blessing.  Maybe Pope Francis should stick to the things he knows since he clearly does not know Scripture at this juncture.  Maybe we should all stick to Christ and Him crucified and be determined to know nothing more or nothing less.   

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