Just a collection of random thoughts after this weekend.
Topic on Friday is one of the frequently asked questions - if God is love, then why is there hell? A sub-sequent discussion on Saturday with friends from the fellowship has raised another question - why do people believe in God/Christianity? A few possible reasons raised on that day-
- People want to go to heaven/receive blessings.
- People don't want to go to hell/receive punishment.
- People who want to know God and have relationship with Him.
The motivation that I want to believe in Christianity should be that I want to know this personal God, who has created me, has given me all the great gifts, but I have continued to reject his existence. I have apologised for my ignorance, wanted forgiveness, and wanted to build a relationship with this God, who is a father to me. It should not be because of existence of heaven or hell. On the other hand, heaven and hell are like the by-products of this failed relationship, where God will place the people he has forgiven and the people who continue to reject him, for eternity.
However, the existence of hell seems to be like scare tactics to some - just a way to get people to believe in Christianity. And I am sure plenty of people around the world have turned back to God because they do not want to suffer the consequence. Not just the Chinese, but majority of population would probably be categorised as "kia-see" (Singaporean/Hokkien slang for "afraid of death"), and talking about the terrible images presented in the Bible on hell does make people think, well, maybe I don't want to be there! But does it provide people a good motivation to turn back to God?
For example, let us suggest that if hell does not exist (let us not draw any link to the fairness/justice of God yet), would there be as many Christians today? It seems that indulgence was marketable back in Luther's time, because people would buy it! People would still buy the "insurance" before, regardless whether it would really guard you on the day.
Talking about insurance, on Sunday in the Bible study group, one new comer guy talked about some more extremist instances of people fearing death/hell. He is a non-Christian and refuses to believe because he still has problems with the justice of God (well, probably not the main reason). He argued that some "Christians" have abused the mercy of God as an insurance to do wicked things. It is like buying insurance - more you buy and more dangerous things you would do. He then pointed out that many mobster, godfathers and even ex-Taiwanese presidents (Chiang and Lee) are Christians.
Funny that we were just about to do Colossians 3:1-17 yesterday, and it was easy to point out from the passage that a believing Christian would/should not live that way. I did also invited him to stay for a few weeks when Josh covered Romans 6 in his talks. However, I don't think that person is convinced. Actually, with that person's personality, I don't think he has even considered to be convinced, and probably no one except God's spirit working in him would persuade him.
And that same person is coming to FOCUS church camp. Foreseeable "fun time" for my group in the camp? Not.
Back to the "why do people believe" question (warned you before that the thoughts would be random!), I guess the same can be said about those who believe because of the potential blessing, or the insurance to go to heaven. If there is no judgement, if there is no heaven or hell, if there is no eternal life nor eternal condemnation - would people repent and want to know this personal God? Even Jesus yelled out, "The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!" (Mark 1:15). At the end of the 2 ways to live, we are also presented with 2 consequences for us to make our choice. I know, the fact that the judgement is there, and both heaven and hell is real, but I am just trying to work out whether one's motivation to repent is 'pure' or not. Existance of judgement still seems to be the dominate reason.
I know that I too was scared of death. I did not understand much about this personal relationship with God until a few years later. When I looked back, my first few years have been patchy...