judgement

The Total Population of Hell

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Some years ago I read a story about a Christian teacher who was asked, “Who do you think is in Hell?” The teacher responded, “There is only one person in hell. Jesus.”

The teacher’s point, to my recollection, was that since it Jesus came to liberate the oppressed, bring sight to the blind and proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor (Luke 4: 17-21), the last place to do this work would be hell. Additionally, wherever Jesus goes, there is liberation (Mark 5, for one example). There is no where we can go where the liberating love of God cannot find us (Psalm 139: 7-12).

Not even hell.

Therefore, as I recall the teacher making the point, the total population of hell is clear. Hell’s total population is 1. Jesus stands in the depths of hell as the crucified victim of heinous acts of violence sets all captives free.

Good news: If there is a hell, Jesus empties it.

"I Am with the Goats" - A Tale

Peter Rollins’ book Orthodox Heretic is a collection of what I will call parables, even in the preface he hesitates with that label. These parables are the sort of parables that I adore and give all sorts of insights to wisdom. If I were to dream up a book this is the sort of book that I would want to have the creativity to write. This book is sort of a combination between the sayings of the desert abbas/ammas and David Eagleman’s book Sum: 40 Tales from the Afterlives.

It is in the spirit of Rollins’ book that I offer up a sort-of tale of my own based on Matthew 25 which I will call “I Am with the Goats”

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‘When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?” And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” Then he will say to those at his left hand, “You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.” Then they also will answer, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?” Then he will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.” And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.’

As the sheep walked into eternal life, Jesus joined with the goats. Perplexed by this action, a sheep, “Jesus where are you going?” Jesus replied, “My ministry with those on the margins never stopped. I AM and always have been among the goats.”

Forgive, Judge, and See - Stepping Away From the Fires of Hell

Picking up from the previous post "COMMENT, COMPLAIN, CRITIQUE, CONTEMPT - THE SUBTLE STEPS TO THE FIRES OF HELL," I offer up a way to think about moving away from contempt. 

recent email newsletter from Fr. Richard Rohr said Pope John XXIII had a motto which was translated as, “See everything; overlook a great deal; correct a little.” Rohr refined this motto to read: "See everything; judge little; forgive much." It is this three fold pattern that might give us the tools to step away from contempt. First the visual then a bit of explination:

Contempt is among the most difficult things to step away from. Moving away from contempt requires dramatic action. We may not desire dramatic moving away when we are close to contempt toward another. Specifically, we are to forgive much. Forgive wholesale and trust that you will have time to sort out the specifics later. Like running from a fire, the first thing to do is get to safe ground before you assess what needs to be done next. Contempt is a fire that can consume all things and so running from it by way of forgiving wholesale is the first step. Assessments can be made on the way forward. 

If you find that you are close to criticism toward another, then it is important to judge less. Remember we all see only through a mirror dimly and what we see in another person is only a small slice of the whole pie. There are situations going on in their lives that you are unaware of that are contributing to actions you don't understand. Notice that it is not "do not judge" but rather "judge little." While the ideal may be to not judge at all, humans are not able to do this. It is more realistic that we aim to judge little.

Finally, if you find that you are close to complaining, then open your eyes and see more. Not only are we not seeing the other clearly, but we also tend to see ourselves in pure and sinless light. We are the "gold standard" by which we think all things should be judged. We often overlook our own failings/shortcomings. See everything means examine your own motives and actions. 

The goal is to bring us back to comments. Comments are without judgement and are seeking clarification. Despite the "comment" section of most online platforms are full of critique and contempt, comments are the clay that we can use to shape healthy relationships.

Racism - "My sins run out behind me, and I do not see them..."

Princeton professor Eddie S. Glaude Jr. gave an interview to Krys Boyd of KERA Think on February 6, 2017 that was worth listening to for a number of reasons. Within in the interview was a metaphor offered up by Dr. Glaude that struck a chord with me about racism. 

Dr. Glaude stated that he was not a climate change denier and he believes that the climate is warming and that we are in a climate crisis. However, he notes, that if you look at the actions of his life, you might think otherwise. He lives his life as though he believes the world's climate is just fine although he intellectually believes otherwise. 

I do not think that I am a racist. I firmly believe in equality and I abhor acts of hate and injustice between people. However, if you look at the actions of my life you could string together a case that I don't care that much about injustice. For instance, I purchase things that I know are built by people living in inhumane conditions.

I do not believe that I am a racist, however (as this little video highlights) not being racist is different from being anti-racist.

I am beginning to come to terms that just because I do not believe that I am a racist or do things that are traditionally thought of as racists actions, I unknowingly do things that cause harm. I am reminded of the great story of Abba Moses that goes like this:

One of the brothers committed a sin. Moses was invited to attend a council about this, but he refused to go. Then a priest sent someone to say to him, “Come, for everyone is waiting for you.” So he got up and went. He took a leaking jug, filled it with water and carried it with him. The others came out to meet him and said to him, “What is this, Father?” The old man said to them, “My sins run out behind me, and I do not see them, and today I am coming to judge the errors of another.” When they heard that they said no more to the brother, but forgave him.

I live unaware of the sin that runs out behind me. I am unaware of the messes that I make. This does not mean I am an evil person only that I am human and ought to strike a more humble posture in my life.