Should good people go to a place of everlasting punishment? Would that seem fair to you? Why would a good person end up in hell, or do they?
I remember when I was 15, God was dealing with my heart. I knew there was something He wanted me to know, but I didn't know what it was. My mind was continually trying to figure out the 'fairness' of why good people would go to hell.
I remember looking at a girl who was my age. She was quiet and didn't bother anybody. She did her work and she seemed like a decent person. I remember thinking to myself, 'Why would someone like that end up in hell? It just doesn't make any sense.'
Think about the man who loves his family. He's super responsible and his wife takes care of the home and mothers her children well. They take family vacations together and rarely argue. They look like a model family to the world around them. Why in the world would they go to an everlasting punishment, or would they? What does God think about them?
We are familiar with the 10 Commandments and most of us would give ourselves a grade of about 6 to 8 on a scale of 10 in keeping the Commandments. But in reality, we really are missing something. What is it?
When God created mankind, His intention was for man to have a relationship with Him. God created every human being to be a worshiper of Him. One of the great Commandments, which underlies the 10 Commandments, is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, and strength. Another command is to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. If we obeyed those commandments, we would easily obey the 10 Commandments.
The first Commandment of the 10 Commandments tells us that we should have no gods before God. Most of us assume that Commandment is a no brainer. We think we already love God and that He is in first place in our hearts. But is He really?
The other day, we were at a table talking with a few young people who had very interesting and strange understandings of God's judgments. A question was asked, 'Do you believe that Jesus is the only way to heaven?' and the person's answer was 'Yes.' 'Do you believe in Him?' was the next question to which the person replied, 'Yes'. But here was an interesting twist; the next question was this, 'You believe Jesus is the only way to heaven and you are trusting in Him for your salvation. Let's say you have a Muslim friend who is faithful to his wife and children. He works hard at taking care of his family. He does the 5 Pillars of his faith, faithfully. He dies and is before God. Do you believe God will let him into heaven?'. The person didn't hesitate, but said, 'Yes. God would let him into heaven.' 'But you just said that Jesus is the only way to heaven' was the next question for the person. The person responded by saying that God would look at the Muslim's heart and see that he really was good. Interesting. (By the way, you can insert any man made religion in place of the word, 'Muslim').
Now, my question is this; Is this Muslim man 'good'? Is the man I described on the top of the page 'good'? How about the girl in my class? What is our definition of 'good'?
All people can do some good things. Men can be responsible and love their families. Women can love and even die for their children. There are organizations everywhere which start orphanages. People donate tons of money to children's hospitals. There is nothing wrong with doing these things. We do these things because we have compassion and we do them as a result of being created in the image of God, but these activities do not make us good people.
So, what is missing? Here's what is missing; a relationship with God. A relationship of being reconciled with God. We can do all the good works we want to, but only the ones that are done out of a relationship with God, are the ones that will count.
No human being is capable of obeying the Great Commandments which are; love God with all your heart, mind, and strength, and, love your neighbor as yourself. No one has God at the center of his or her life, nor do people have God as their greatest affection in their lives. We love other things. We love things more than we do God. We love vacations, nice homes, cars, clothing, families, food, careers, education, entertainment, status, friendships, etc. We spend all our energy on these things. We were created to spend our energy in worshiping and loving God. All of these things are good, and we should be thankful for them as we have them, but they are only substitutes for God in our lives. God promises to take care of us when we trust in Him, but these are the things we live for.
So, the good person dies and is before God. He does everything good, at least on the outward appearance. But, the one thing He is missing is a relationship with God. So, how can God declare this man innocent, when he has broken the first Commandment all his life?
Are we really good people if we don't have God? We can have all our ducks in a row, but miss the boat if our relationship with God is broken. That's why Jesus came to earth. He died to pay for our sins, but He also died so we could be reconciled to a holy God. When we turn away from sin and selfishness, and trust in Him, He gives us a new heart that can love Him. Now we can have the power to love God and the strength to live for Him and His glory instead of for our own.