Recently the Pope got into some hot water over hell. From time to time Francis catches up for a chat with Eugenio Scalfari, 93, an Italian journalist. They talk. It’s off the record. The journalist doesn’t take notes.
Scalfari claims the Pope denied the existence of hell. The Pope says the journalist had a faulty memory and hell is real.
Fortunately, the existence of hell does not depend on the whim of the Pope. It depends on God and he’s made it pretty clear that hell is real. Jesus often warned of the danger of hell. He didn’t come to judge, but to save. But by his coming, the world has been judged. Eternity hinges on our response to him (John 5:24).
The urgency of Jesus' mission is in part explained by his belief in the separation between heaven and hell. Our lack of urgency is partly explained by our belief that somehow it will be alright in the end for those who don’t know Christ. It won’t.
Over time movements settle down and lose their urgency. We want to lower the tension with the world around us. The notion of hell is embarrassing.
Lack of conviction explains why church mission statements are often so insipid. Their mission has become merely improving life in this world. As though that was Jesus’ priority.
Jesus fed the hungry and said, “I am the bread of life.” He gave sight to the blind and proclaimed, “I am the light of the world.” He raised the dead and announced, “I am the resurrection and the life.” His acts of compassion called people to turn and put their faith in him. When the crowds only wanted bread, he abandoned them (John 6:15).
Jesus was on a mission to save lost people. Being missional has become everything but that. Jesus gave his life as a ransom for many. That was his highest priority. It should be ours.