Do you need a hell? Or any other sacred cows for that matter?
If you didn't know it already, it won’t take you long to figure out; When it comes to theology - nobody has it all figured out. Generally when people think they do, that’s when they are at their most blind. Our beliefs get shaped and moulded over years of relationship, experiences, study, and life. I’m sure all of us have experienced times where we were totally convinced of something only to find out later that we were just plain wrong. There is nothing sinful or bad about finding out your wrong about something. In-fact, it’s one of the joy’s of being human!
When it comes to theology I am always intrigued by what people require in order to believe what they believe. By that I mean, we often have “sacred cows” propping up our belief systems. We then protect these sacred cows because we feel like if they are moved or taken away our whole belief system will fall over.
Let me give you some examples. I’m going to jump straight into a really controversial one - for many Christians there is a hot debate going on around the existence of hell. I don’t really care to get into those kinds of debates because I find them pointless. But I do like to look at controversial topics that Christians often feel scared to even think about and ask myself some questions. When it comes to the topic of hell I decided ask myself a few simple questions; what if hell doesn't exist? How would my life change? What would I do differently and why? How would my life be affected if hell did not exist?
Every single person who I have asked these questions comes back with the same answer. In one way or another they all say something along the lines of, “well if there is no hell, what is the point of sharing the gospel? If everyone is going to heaven then why go tell anyone about Jesus?”
This answer highlights a “sacred cow” that is holding up our belief system of evangelism. When we answer these questions like this we see that our motivation for sharing the gospel is hell. In other words, we are sharing the gospel in response to the existence of hell. If you take the sacred cow of hell away, our belief system falls over and we are basically saying that we would have no reason to share the gospel…
But if we look at how Jesus lived and what His driving motivation for sharing the gospel was, it was never in response to hell. It was always and only in response to the love of the Father. We are told that Jesus lived in a way where He only did what He first saw the Father do. We can see from this and from the way He lived that He wasn't motivated by hell to share the love of God, He was simply motivated by love. His motivation was for everyone to encounter the love of God for themselves.
When we remove the sacred cow holding up our belief system we are given the chance to see if that belief system can stand on its own. If it can’t, we have some learning to do and some questions to ask ourselves.
When it comes to sharing the gospel message, the only motivation we should need is the love of God. His love is a far greater motivator than the fear of hell. My personal motivation now is that I don’t want people to live another moment of their lives without encountering the beautiful reality of relationship with the Father. His love is the reason for life itself and I want everyone to experience that!
Other sacred cows I have noticed trending over the years are;
The devil - some christians only seemed to get passionate about their relationship with God when we talk or sing about beating on the devil. It’s like they feel the need to prove their love for God by the amount of hate they have towards the devil. Personally, I just don’t like giving the devil any attention whatsoever - I’d rather spend my time talking to the Father about other things. If there was no devil to fight would you still be passionately in love with God?
Sin - oh boy. Here is another big one. I have found that many of us prop up our belief of God’s holiness with a “sacred cow” of our sinfulness. Don’t get me wrong, pre-Jesus were lost to sin. But since Christ, scripture is clear we are a new creation. So what then does our relationship with sin look like now? I feel like some Christians attempt to affirm Gods absolute holiness by talking about themselves as if they are “oh so sinful.”
Sometimes we as Christians have learnt to live more in response to sin, than we do in response to Gods love. We see it in our Sunday services, our new-christians programs and Sunday Schools. We have to spend time convincing people that they are sinners. why? Because our gospel message has become sin focused and we have made it dependant on people knowing how much of a sinner they are. We go to great lengths to make sure people know how much of a sinner they are because we feel like that will create a need for them to have Jesus…
We even convince them that every little mistake and mess is sin. And in doing so, we create a sin-conscious environment where people are focussed on trying not to sin rather than being focused on God and the new creation that He has made us. Trying not to sin is like trying not to think about an elephant as soon as someone has said “don’t think about an elephant.” The more we focus on trying not to do it, the more we actually do it!
Again, what would happen if took that sacred cow away? It can be scary to remove it at times because we feel like we are touching something that is holy and should not be moved. But Jesus never defended or promoted the message of sin - so why should we?
What if not every little mess and mistake was sin. What if mess and mistakes are the very things that make us human. What if the cross removed our sin whilst protecting our humanity? In other words, do we have freedom to make a mistake or mess without it being sin? We as Christians often talk about sin like it includes everything that makes us human. The messes, the mistakes, the times we are wrong. But as a father I now know that when my kids make a mistake I don’t see it as sin or a heart problem. I simply know they are learning and now have an opportunity to continue learning by cleaning up their mess.
In Christ we have been made perfectly human - which in our original state, is sinless. Gods idea of perfection is quite different from the traditional Christian idea of perfection. Gods idea of perfection is relationally based - mess and all! Religions idea of perfection is performance based and in the context of performance, mess and mistakes are sinful!
The love of the Father should be enough motivation for us to need a saviour. His love is reason enough for us all to need Jesus. If the love of God is not reason enough for me in any area of my life, then I need to have a fresh encounter with Him and allow His love to touch that part of my heart again.
I love identifying these sacred cows in my own life because it allows me to live more and more in response to the person of God. I have found that subconsciously we live in response to so many things at times. I believe our journey is one of learning to live fully and solely in response to the love of our Father.
What things do you require in order to be passionately in love and committed to God? What sacred cows can you see holding up your belief systems?