Between Heaven and Hell

Between Heaven and Hell

Power and Might and Right
1 Kings 21:1-21
© Hilary F. Marckx, all rights reserved

Wouldn’t you just love to have
the power to get something done, made right
someone taken care of
so they get their just due?
Wouldn’t you just love to be a super-hero?
Use might to make sure right happens…
What would you, who would you, where would you,
if you were God?
AND, isn’t it good we are not—God?
I’m not sure we could do justice any better
as gods than as us.
God IS justice, and we just try at it.
It seems that for most humans,
justice has more to do with revenge than justice.
How could we do this thing called, “Justice?”
I think we begin by growing—more into God’s way
and more out of our own way.
God’s way is a way of love and grace.
What is our way?
Generally it is a way of equal signs, of pluses and minuses,
of weights and measures, of balances and imbalances—
how can this way of arithmetic make for justice? It can’t.
God’s way does not set us up to be tricked
out of our inheritance, our lives, our hope.
God’s way includes all, opens doors, levels mountains,
fills in valleys, heals hearts and relationships,
offers comfort, fills sorrow with joy,
and invites all over and over and over and over,
without exclusion, with nothing
but goodness and mercy all the days of our lives.
I’ll choose God’s way.

# # #

What follows is a theology I have grown into over many years of consideration of the actual intention and teaching of Jesus. It is a theology of absolute love and grace and forgiveness. I was brought up as the child of a Fundamentalist minister, and learned about God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, the Bible from my earliest times. As I wrote what is below, I can hear my father saying, “You have scandalized the Gospel!” I can hear accusations that I have “Watered down the Scripture!” But I contend not.

I have come to believe that any theology that contends that humans are desperate sinners who must take Jesus into their hearts or suffer an everlasting damnation of a fiery hell is a scandalous theology, not of Christian scripture, and certainly not any “Good News” that I might find helpful in either my daily life or in my future, eternal life.

These thoughts, beliefs, are growing and taking on more efficacy as I read about and ponder the life and teachings of Jesus my Christ. I believe he offers a way for us that is much better than we have ever offered ourselves in terms of our readings of the Bible. All I believe is in Christian and in Hebrew scripture, but is seems we Christians have been caught up more in right and wrong, good and bad, than in the boldness of faith Jesus offered us. So let me continue.

I have long asserted that the idea of heaven and hell is all about our human sense of reward or eternal security, in the case of Heaven, and punishment, or revenge in the case of Hell. Humans seem to have a need to get even. When we are at the mercy of tyrants with no way to escape, we want to know that the tyrant in question will get theirs, if not in this life, then in the life to come. Also, we want assurance that when we, the good and holy, die we will get the ultimate reward, heaven.

Many Christians as well as some other of the Big Five religions (Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, and Christianity) have this reward and punishment model. Speaking for Christianity, there are many who have defined sin and sinning so broadly, or narrowly, that only those of a particular tradition have a chance at a heavenly reward. There are formulas to speak, virtues to achieve, lifestyles to uphold, commandments to keep, and stands to take in order to become one of the few chosen people.

God, I do believe, does not function in that fashion. God has a wholly other agenda. God has an idea of mercy and grace and healing and wholeness and unity that is of supreme importance for us and for God. It is a standard, it is a way of life, it is a path to take and it is God’s plan for all. This plan contains no condemnation, no revenge, and no hurt.

It is important for us to note that God will not listen to people with bad agendas like Ahab did with Jezebel. People who want to steal our birthright, our heritage, our righteous future are not those to whom God pays much attention. The self-righteous who have twisted scripture into an unforgiving, judging document without mercy, that seems to only agree with the self-righteous, is not about God or God’s Word. Anytime we use scripture as an excuse for us to judge, exclude, create outsiders, or make any human feel unwelcome, it ceases to be the Word of God and becomes the word of us.

I do not believe in the traditional understandings of heaven and hell. I do not believe those places exist as places, or as dimensions, or planes of existence, and certainly not as place where brimstone burns or the streets are paved with gold. What I do believe is that God is absolutely trustworthy. Therefore I believe that the Justice of God is a justice that takes care of us, holding and loving us even in our darkest moments. Let’s take a moment and see what these would be and what God would do about them.

I do believe that God still loves and forgives those who torture, murder, do horrible things to adults and children, commit genocide, drop nuclear bombs, commit terrorist acts that maim and destroy lives, and do despicable and unforgivable things to other humans. We may not be able to, but God can, will and does. So, what I am indicating is that there is no hell for anyone–no matter how bad, except, and I believe this to be true, in this lifetime, on this planet, for this now—and it is really bad and truly comfortless.

Is there a heaven? I believe that there are metaphors for heaven that are made up out of the imagination, and while they may be truly artistic and beautiful, they are nonetheless, metaphors. What I do believe is that God will indeed care for us forever. I am not sure it gets any better than that. I have come to this: I love God and God loves me, and God will take care of me in unimanageably glorious ways.

In conclusion, other humans might plot against me and steal from me and do their best to make my life a living hell, but God will nurture and love me for eternity. The thing is though, I am not so special that it is only me and my kind for whom God will do this—God will do this for every kind of human imaginable and unimaginable as well.

# # #

1 Kings 21:1-21 — New Revised Standard Version

Naboth the Jezreelite had a vineyard in Jezreel, beside the palace of King Ahab of Samaria. And Ahab said to Naboth, “Give me your vineyard, so that I may have it for a vegetable garden, because it is near my house; I will give you a better vineyard for it; or, if it seems good to you, I will give you its value in money.” But Naboth said to Ahab, “The Lord forbid that I should give you my ancestral inheritance.” Ahab went home resentful and sullen because of what Naboth the Jezreelite had said to him; for he had said, “I will not give you my ancestral inheritance.” He lay down on his bed, turned away his face, and would not eat. His wife Jezebel came to him and said, “Why are you so depressed that you will not eat?” He said to her, “Because I spoke to Naboth the Jezreelite and said to him, ‘Give me your vineyard for money; or else, if you prefer, I will give you another vineyard for it’; but he answered, ‘I will not give you my vineyard.’” His wife Jezebel said to him, “Do you now govern Israel? Get up, eat some food, and be cheerful; I will give you the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite.” So she wrote letters in Ahab’s name and sealed them with his seal; she sent the letters to the elders and the nobles who lived with Naboth in his city. She wrote in the letters, “Proclaim a fast, and seat Naboth at the head of the assembly; seat two scoundrels opposite him, and have them bring a charge against him, saying, ‘You have cursed God and the king.’ Then take him out, and stone him to death.” The men of his city, the elders and the nobles who lived in his city, did as Jezebel had sent word to them.

Just as it was written in the letters that she had sent to them, they proclaimed a fast and seated Naboth at the head of the assembly. The two scoundrels came in and sat opposite him; and the scoundrels brought a charge against Naboth, in the presence of the people, saying, “Naboth cursed God and the king.” So they took him outside the city, and stoned him to death. Then they sent to Jezebel, saying, “Naboth has been stoned; he is dead.” As soon as Jezebel heard that Naboth had been stoned and was dead, Jezebel said to Ahab, “Go, take possession of the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite, which he refused to give you for money; for Naboth is not alive, but dead.” As soon as Ahab heard that Naboth was dead, Ahab set out to go down to the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite, to take possession of it. Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying: Go down to meet King Ahab of Israel, who rules in Samaria; he is now in the vineyard of Naboth, where he has gone to take possession. You shall say to him, “Thus says the Lord: Have you killed, and also taken possession?” You shall say to him, “Thus says the Lord: In the place where dogs licked up the blood of Naboth, dogs will also lick up your blood.” Ahab said to Elijah, “Have you found me, O my enemy?” He answered, “I have found you. Because you have sold yourself to do what is evil in the sight of the Lord, I will bring disaster on you; I will consume you, and will cut off from Ahab every male, bond or free, in Israel.”


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