Settling For Hell

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“If you were to die tonight, do you know where you would go?”

I don’t usually start conversations this way. But Philip was in the hospital after relapsing, his body ravaged by crack, and I felt the Spirit leading me to probe him deeply about his spiritual state.

“I think I’d go to hell,” Philip replied.

“Why?”

“Because I don’t have a personal relationship with Christ.”

“What do you think hell will be like?” I probed.

“I’ve heard it’s hot,” Philip replied. “But I think I’d get used to it.”

Philip has gotten used to a lot of “hell” in his life: his father’s absence, gang banging, an alcohol addiction that he thought would mask his feelings of worthlessness but that landed him on the streets instead. Not to mention heavier drugs, homelessness, and prostitution.

As I drove away from the hospital and reflected on our conversation, the Holy Spirit turned the question around on me. “Christ came to give you life. But what hell are you settling for instead?”

The Bible says that hell is not just a hot place, but eternal separation from God; the absence of God. It also says that heaven is not just a destination after death; Christ shares eternal life with us now as we abide in him.

I thought of our men and the “hells” they often settle for: addictions, abusive relationships, homelessness. Sometimes they really are nearly powerless to get out of their situations—there is a severe shortage of good treatment, mental health care, and affordable housing options in Chicago. But often, after a lifetime of discouragement and hopelessness, people choose to settle for the “hell” they know rather than forging the unknown path to seek life.

“But what about you?” the Spirit asked. “Are you really abiding in Christ’s eternal life, or are you settling for a kind of hell? What habits and practices separate you from God instead of drawing you nearer to him?”

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