From the Desk of Mr. Zissman

The musings of an over-stimulated mind

Jesus loves the little children…

with 10 comments

Jesus loves the little children,
All the children of the world.
Red and yellow, black and white,
All are precious in His sight,
Jesus loves the little children of the world.

I remember sitting in Sunday School as a young child, singing this exact song. It served as a musical foundation for my early faith. I remember sitting in brightly colored plastic chairs, sipping fruit “juice” (Seriously, was there ever actually any real juice in those large 3 gallon jugs?) and coloring Xeroxed pictures of a smiling, cartoony looking Jesus. We learned about Jesus, Mary, Moses, The Disciples and Heaven and Hell.

For Young Stephen, the stark contrast between Heaven and Hell made perfect sense to me. You either loved Jesus and went to Heaven or you didn’t and went to Hell where all the bad people go. There was nothing else, just one or the other.

This stayed with me till I grew older and some things began to linger in the back of my mind. The fact that a loving, just God would cast someone into a “lake of fire” because they didn’t believe the right thing bothered me. I never admitted it to anyone because I felt guilty about it, as if I had somehow blasphemed God by having this struggle. “The Lord works in mysterious ways.” I would tell myself.

Even though it was drilled into my head every Sunday morning that if someone hadn’t “accepted” Jesus that they would burn in Hell forever regardless of what they did, the confusion never went away.

This really left me feeling disoriented, because I firmly believe that Christ stands for truth, justice and peace and I had seen works of people whom I felt represented these same ideals. For example, take the late Princess Diana. Here is a woman who, during her short time on this earth, dedicated herself to funding AIDS research and spending time with AIDS patients, even during a period where little was known about it and people thought you could catch it via skin contact. She also dedicated herself to the eradication of land mines, a horrible device if there was one, all the while battling her own personal demons of bulimia, self-harm (cutting) and more.

And yet, I had heard it preached straight from the pulpit that because she had never made a public profession of faith in Jesus, she died “unsaved” to spend an eternity in Hell.

Wait, what?

She’s in Hell?

We know this for sure?

It bothered me greatly to hear all that she had done in her life so easily dismissed. And that’s not to simply single out Princess Di, but other people who have spread peace and love, only to be told they died “unsaved” and went to Hell.

Does anyone else see something wrong with this?

Have we, as Christians, gotten to the point where we look at God’s redemptive, powerful, healing love like a Beverly Hills Polo Club where only the elite can get in? But doesn’t that contrast with Christ’s message of inclusion and not exclusion?

If God is the one who decides if we make into Heaven or Hell and faith in Jesus “saves” us into Heaven, is Jesus then protecting us from God? Why would we need protecting from someone who loves us as much as him? Indeed, God carries such a powerful love for us, that he allowed his only son to die an excruciating death usually reserved for the most hardcore of criminals.

And God allowed it, so that we would no longer be held prisoners of sin.

He loves us that much.

So if he loves us that much, how could he possibly send someone to Hell and still claim he’s a loving God?

Questions, questions, questions.

Let’s look at this from another angle: the basic understanding of Christian behavior is to ‘be good.’ Paul writes in Galatians 5:22 that one of the “fruits of the (Holy) spirit” is goodness.

So goodness is a fruit of the Holy Spirit.

But then the writer of Psalms 1 states that “all good things” come from God.

All good things.

Come from God.

So goodness is a fruit of the Holy Spirit and all good things come from God, right? So by doing a ‘good thing’ you are, in fact, a fulfilling a fruit of the Holy Spirit, a fruit that originally came from God.

Whether you realize it or not, by doing something good you are fulfilling God’s will and doing what is pleasing in God’s eyes.

“…’I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” ~ Matthew 25:40

If how we treat others is how we treat Jesus and if we treat Jesus via other people with love, affection and kindness, then why would God decide this person should experience eternal pain, suffering and torture?

Look at this series of verses from Ezekiel…

“I poured out my wrath on them because they had shed blood in the land and because they had defiled it with their idols. I dispersed them among the nations, and they were scattered through the countries; I judged them according to their conduct and their actions. And wherever they went among the nations they profaned my holy name, for it was said of them, ‘These are the LORD’s people, and yet they had to leave his land.’ I had concern for my holy name, which the people of Israel profaned among the nations where they had gone.

“Therefore say to the Israelites, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: It is not for your sake, people of Israel, that I am going to do these things, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you have gone.  I will show the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, the name you have profaned among them. Then the nations will know that I am the LORD, declares the Sovereign LORD, when I am proved holy through you before their eyes.

“‘For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. Then you will live in the land I gave your ancestors; you will be my people, and I will be your God.” ~ Ezekiel 36:16-28

So God became angered at Israel for worshiping false gods and making idols to bow down too, so he punished them and drove them from their own land. Enslaved by foreign leaders who held them captive by people who cared little to nothing about them, their lives were hell.

But then God goes on to say that, due to his grace and mercy, he has forgiven them and allowed them to return to their promised land. But nowhere in the verse does it say they specifically asked for forgiveness.

Interesting.

Let’s look at this from another direction. Let’s say we have an atheist named Jane. Jane  has never went to church, was raised in an atheist household and sees no need for Jesus, or God or any other religion.

Now let’s also say that Jane is a drug addict, or more specifically, heroin. Her arms look like a AAA road map full of bruises, sores and scars. She lost her job due to her addiction, her family has abandoned her due to the pain she has caused them, and with no job and no money to pay for drugs, she has resorted to prostitution. Every night she sells her body to strangers and is abused and violated in the most graphic, horrible ways possible. All so she can have a little extra cash for her next drug fix.

The one night, feeling cold, alone and broken, Jane deliberately over doses and dies a slow, painful death on her filthy couch.

She then meets God.

What happens?

Does Jane go to Heaven or Hell?

Here we have this woman’s life whose life was in shambles: depressed and alone, forgotten and miserable. No one had bothered to show her the tiniest shred of kindness or mercy in her last days and she dies in utter and complete darkness.

But would God, in his eternal compassion and grace, give this woman the peace and serenity she never had while living or would he simply say “Sorry woman, but you didn’t believe in exactly the right thing, so off to Hell you go.”

If God is our Heavenly Father who loves and cares for us much more than our earthly father possibly could (and the love a father has for his child is well documented throughout the pages of history) then why would God cast Jane into a “lake of fire”?

Does God get what God wants?

Jane’s life was already in hell. Her life was a hell on earth.

Before we consider Hell as a cavernous lava chamber in which Satan sits upon a throne of skulls, laughing as he puts backwards messages into Ozzy Osbourne songs, we should understand that hell is here on Earth.

From the elderly shut-in.

To the drug addict looking for another fix.

And the alcoholic passed out, clutching a bottle as they lay face down in a pool of their own vomit.

As well as the sex abuse victim huddled in darkness, clutching their knees to their chest as tears trickle down their innocent faces.

And the homeless using a thin, frail newspaper as their own line of protection form a blistering winter cold.

This is Hell. This weeping and gnashing of teeth.

And what do we do about it?

Burn Korans?

Protest Harry Potter?

Become enraged that our elected officials do not pray and worship in the exact specified way we feel they should?

In Acts 1, Jesus commands us to witness “to the ends of the earth.” and in his letter to the Romans, Paul writes that we should be “slaves to righteousness.”

Peace. Mercy. Justice. This is righteousness. This is Christ.

This is Heaven.

God has shown us incredible mercy by sacrificing his only own son for our sake. The veil in the temple has been torn, the sacrificial goat has been set free.

It is finished.

Heaven doesn’t need to be an ideal of golden gates, mansions and angels sitting on clouds while playing harps. It’s a very real concept, a place, a state of being that lives forever, that darkness will never taint nor corrupt.

Heaven lives in every one of us, being God’s perfect gift to us and it’s our job to show Heaven to as many people as possible by showing love and compassion to all.

The promise is for everyone, allowing eternal joy for all of humanity.

THAT is Jesus loving the little children.

Don’t worry if someone, or even yourself, is “good enough” to get into Heaven. Instead, bring Heaven to earth, just like Christ did.

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Written by MrZissman

04/25/2011 at 12:42 AM

10 Responses

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  1. Another well written blog, Steve! You are asking one of the eternal questions that man has struggled with forever. How could a God who claims to love His people, cast them to Hell? But you already know the answer to this: God doesn’t send anyone to Hell. We send ourselves there. Though we are ALL sinners and deserve death, He gave us a way out. Jesus Christ. I believe every word written in the Bible ascribed to Christ. Especially when He said “I am the way, the truth, and the life. NO ONE comes to the Father, but by me”. If there is no Hell, then His death and resurrection are meaningless. We all struggle with the thought of a “good person” who spends his or her whole life doing good things ever beind sent to Hell. Also with the thought of a murderer or pedophile who gives his life to the Lord being rewarded with Heaven.
    It’s like a person showing up at the corporate offices of IBM and working around the office all day. Helping, doing tasks without ever having been hired. Sure, the people will love and appreciate them for what they are doing, but because they have never been hired and therefore, do not “belong” there, they will receive no pay for what they are doing. Does that make sense?
    As tragic as some of the people you mentioned lives are, (the drug addict, prostitute, etc)sometime in their lives they had the opportunity to know the Lord and rejected Him. I know this because the Bible says it.
    Again, I’m proud of your writings. Especially the theological ones. Shows your thinking! Love you!

    Roberta Harvey

    04/25/2011 at 8:28 AM

  2. “As tragic as some of the people you mentioned lives are, (the drug addict, prostitute, etc)sometime in their lives they had the opportunity to know the Lord and rejected Him. I know this because the Bible says it.”

    But, see Bert, when you talk like that, it comes across like the Pharisees who said those born blind were so because their parents committed some sin or that the lepers were being punished by God with their disease because that’s what the Law held. Where in the Bible does it say that the sex abuse victim denied the Word of God, so she was punished by being raped? Where does it say that man has to sleep in filth because he didn’t respond to an altar call? Where, instead, are these heaven-bound, saved children of God showing these tormented souls the works and love of Christ? Why are they not loving their neighbor and then sharing that the love and compassion they gave is only a glimpse of what Jesus has made possible for us? These are part of “the secrets of the hearts of men” that will be revealed on Judgement Day.

    But let’s look at what the Bible says. When one focuses on the Bible through the lens of Sola Scriptura the bigger message can become lost. You didn’t mention specific verses, but I think I know the ones you are referring to.

    John 3:16-18 states: For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.

    It seems pretty clear cut and is THE go-to verse for many Protestant denominations. However, it does not tell the whole story. Stepping back from the verse and viewing the chapter as a whole, we see Jesus is speaking to Nicodemus, a holy man and teacher. Nicodemus is, plainly speaking, being a smart ass. He knows the answers to the questions he asks – he wants to trip Jesus because he wants a loop hole. Jesus’ response? Those who hear/know/learn and decide not to admit He is the Messiah are condemned. It also applies to those that do admit it, but do nothing with this knowledge, thinking admittance covers them and that they can continue their works “in the darkness.” Jesus says they turn from it willingly.

    Further in the chapter, we have John the Baptist reaffirming this sentiment. John says, “No one can receive anything except what has been given him from heaven.” And that only starts John’s speech that restates exactly what Jesus told Nicodemus.

    Why the redundancy? That’s where the church tradition comes in. The church being addressed in this Gospel consists of followers of John the Baptist. This church believed in the works of Jesus with many seeing it themselves. They held that Jesus was of God and accepted what he preached. However, they still held that John the Baptist was also a messiah and that they could accept Jesus’ holy position and be “saved’, but get to heaven and to God through John. This is why Jesus is referred to as the ONLY Son of God throughout this Gospel and why it has Jesus stating, “I am the way, the truth, and the light.” This is why the Gospel is focused on “Who is Jesus?” and spends most of its focus on Jesus’ final days. It works hard to prove Jesus is the Christ and that those exposed to this truth will be judged on their reaction to it to this church.

    But even stepping away from that background, the verse says Jesus came not to condemn the world but to save the world. The world. If we take the verse as it, Sola Scriptura style, where does this leave those within the world that have not been exposed to, as it is referred to in John, the light? Does it not condemn them, exactly what Jesus said He was not doing? And what of those whose death comes before they can verbally declare Jesus as their Lord & Savior – the unborn, the babies, the children, and the mentally disabled? Does it not condemn them, exactly what Jesus said he was not doing? There must be more to it than just this.

    Indeed, there is.

    Let’s look at another popular verse used in this argument. Mark 16:16 states, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned.”

    Standing alone, it’s a very clear-cut and condemning verse. However, there’s more to this story. What is happening in this chapter? Jesus had been crucified and placed into the tomb. On the morning of the third day, three followers go to pay respects only to find Jesus is gone and a man in white (Jesus incognito) proclaiming He has risen. They run back and tell everyone the good news. Everyone else ignores them and refuses to believe. Jesus does this again, they run to the others, and the others still won’t listen to them. Then Jesus shows Himself and gives them a talking to, telling them they should know better. He then sends them on their mission: His followers are to go out and tell the news, just as those three did them that day. Those who accept it upon hearing it are saved; those who refuse to accept it upon hearing it, just as they refused to, are condemned.

    Both of these popular verses that are used to exclude people within this world from a place in heaven with God do not hold what people say they hold. They speak only of those who learn of Jesus and have it presented to them in a fashion so that they may fully understand the concept and reject it. This is the judgment for that group of people. Those who do not fully understand or are not presented with this knowledge are not condemned based on this. One significant example of this is when He was on the cross. Jesus pardon the soldiers, saying, “”Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). And indeed, they did not understand Him to be the Christ as they were never presented with the teachings so that they might fully understand. Instead, they feed off of those who had rejected and then approached them. After the act was done, the solider that was present and witnessed the events when Jesus did give up the spirit understood because he was allowed to witness an event just as the followers had throughout Jesus’ life. His fate, then, lies in which direction he took: understand and continue as he is/reject or understand and change his acts/accept.

    James chapter 3 lays out a warning to those who immerse themselves in theology and who study the ideas of Christ in order to teach others. They are judged even stricter because they are in a position to influence either by driving the flock closer to or farther from God.

    Jesus also shared a parable about those who know God’s will versus those who do not. Luke 12 states, “And that slave who knew his master’s will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, shall receive many lashes, but the one who did not know it, and committed deeds worthy of a flogging, will receive but few. And from everyone who has been given much shall much be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more.”

    This parable is used to help those gathered understand His initial teaching, which is stated earlier in verses 8 & 9, “I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before others, the Son of Man will acknowledge before the angels of God. But whoever denies me before others will be denied before the angels of God.”

    So what of those who have not heard? The Bible states in several places that others will be judged by other means. Not everyone is held to the same accord. In 1 Timothy 4:10, the Bible says that God is Savior of all men, “especially those who believe.” It does not say “only those who believe.” 1 Timothy 4:10 states, “or to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe.”

    In his letters, Paul tells us that those who have never heard of the law are not imputed sin under the law. He also states that those under the Law are the ones judged under the Law. The people who have never heard of the Law are judged by the Law of God which He has placed into their hearts. Romans 2:14-16 states, “For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness, and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them, on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus.” This teaching is called the Natural Law and explains how those not reached by the Word through the followers on Earth internally are driven to God’s teachings – not through words or proclamations, but by a drive in their actions and living. This Natural Law is nothing more than the eternal law of God and what He brought us through Jesus. He writes it on all of our hearts as He has created us and we all are His children. For those of us who do not have the advantage of knowing the Gospels, which is laid out as the easiest way to heaven in the Bible, this Natural Law offers a similar choice to those who are taught the Word of God. The Natural Law provided by God is in conflict with our human instinct (think Garden of Eden). By choosing to obey this Natural Law, this conscious feeling, those without the Word are following the teachings of Christ. As long as they never deny Christ or His teachings when made fully aware, they have the opportunity, as those who are living with knowledge and application of the Word have, to be with God in heaven.

    Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross was for ALL to be saved and to give eternal life to ALL – not just those who encountered a missionary or heard a name. It’s when you learn and understand the facts that it is held against you for judgment. The Bible says that if you are not aware of a sin, you cannot be punished for it. It holds true for the Christian who unknowingly acts against what is within their faith and it holds true for populations who have never been taught the Good News. Jesus’ death and resurrection allows for this, as even He stated that it would be done for all sins – past, present, and future – to be forgiven.

    Without this, God would only be creating humans to send them into the torment of hell, either to punish them for not having access to Jesus – which He would not be providing them with – or to punish them for the decisions of their parents, which they have no knowledge of. And, if so, then we’re believing and following not out of Love, which the Bible states God is, but out of fear and out of the fact that God has predetermined us a dwelling in heaven. So, under that, we should be Calvinists as they state God selects which of His creation He will save before they are created and that God chooses which of His creation to send His spirit to, as the rest are inferior creations that He didn’t give His all.

    I dunno if I want to apart of that, as it makes God come across as a bit of a jerk and not the whole God is Love verse.

    Hilary

    04/25/2011 at 5:57 PM

  3. As a Presbyterian, I have to speak to the misunderstanding of Calvin’s theology (Predetermination). It is NOT that God chooses some and rejects others. It is that before we are even created, our Father knows us so intimately that he knows which of his creations will choose him, love him, and trust in his son, and those who will not. Calvin was totally with you on this one; he also did not believe that God was an elitist jerk. lol! Predetermination actually opens the door for those to encounter God in parts of the world who are not touched by any kind of missionary. God will claim those who are His. Even if it is a revelation within someone’s last breath. However, those who reject God will spend an eternity without Him. As you said, God loves all of his creation (John 3:16). However, only His children, those who accept Christ (John 1:12), will spend their eternity in the presence of God.

    As for the Bible saying you are not guilty of sin you are not aware of…that’s actually not true. The Bible says “ALL have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:32). All means all. That includes those who are ignorant to the distance between themselves and God due to their sin. Christ is the only way to bridge that distance. Rejecting him is rejecting God….this is such a great discussion! I can see that you know your scriptures very well, Hilary.

    Stephen, this is so well written and thought-provoking (I actually read it Sunday, too) and your journey is so inspiring! “Seek and you will find.”

    Paula Shupe

    04/26/2011 at 8:35 AM

    • Can I just say how much I love the theological debate we have going on here? I feel like we’re a bunch of Rabbis sitting at the temple as we stroke our beards and contemplate the Torah. This is what I love!

      And I agree that not everyone will make it to Heaven, if only that there are some people who are so hardened in their hearts, so stubborn that even if confronted face-to-face with God, they still will reject Him.

      MrZissman

      04/26/2011 at 9:39 AM

    • Paula, you speak of choice within Calvinism. John Calvin’s interpretation of the Bible held that mankind did not have free will and that God did not use any input about a person for His decision; Jacobus Arminius’ interpretation said that man had the choice & God based an individual’s destination on the foreknowledge of that choice.

      In his works, Calvin stated that not everyone was created equal – some were created superior and worthy for salvation, while others were inferior and destined for damnation. He never stated an identifying factor between the two. However, both groups were created without the capacity of good without the intervention of God due to John’s interpretation of a verse in Romans about man’s heart being wicked.

      John Calvin furthered his view of no free will be stating that every action we were involved in was preprogrammed by God before we were created and that there was no way out of what was written for you.

      And, if that wasn’t enough, John added that if your parents were guilty of a grievous sin – and hey, who wouldn’t be seeing how mankind was only capable of evil – you would bear the guilt & punishment of the sin.

      This is why in Calvinist towns after the Reformation, you see two social classes forming: the Godly elect & the unsaved. The theology was misused to grant some people power based on the assumption of their predestined, preprogrammed life, while others were servants based on the assumption of their predestined, preprogrammed life. Was this John’s intention? No. But doctrine misuse is rarely the intent.

      Now, Jacobus Arminius, on the other hand, stated everything you gave in your explanation. He said that God used the knowledge of our free will to categorize us in the two groups, but did not preprogram our actions, as it would void out our free will. Thus, our lives are not prewritten & we can alter events in it with our choices, but God knows beforehand the choices & results since He is all-knowing.

      In short:

      John Calvin – God choose you; once saved, always saved

      Jacobus Arminius – God knew you’d come home.

      And yes, while Paul wrote that all have sinned (and you have to look at it in the context of audience & intent – he was squashing holier than thous), he also addressed the issue where Jews were claiming the converted Gentiles were sinners because they were not following Old Testament laws. And what did he say there? No, they weren’t sinning. While they are sinners because no one is perfect, they are not sinning by not following the OT laws because they don’t know them. Thus, they will not be held to them. Jesus was the new covenant & did away with the old covenant. In a way, one can argue that the only commandments we do have are to love God & to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. But that’s a whole ‘nother debate.

      Hilary

      04/26/2011 at 1:47 PM

  4. Thanks Paula, for saying what I was trying to in another way. Hilary I bow to your much greater knowledge of the Scriptures. I have no intention of getting into a theological debate that will resolve nothing and cause hard feelings.
    However I stand by my original statement that if anyone can get into Heaven just be being “a good person” and “doing good things” then that renders Christ’s death and resurrection on the cross for nothing. And I know there’s not a Christian of ANY denomination who believes that.

    Roberta Harvey

    04/26/2011 at 11:54 AM

    • But Bert, His sacrifice was FOR ALL so that sins may be forgiven.

      If you know & say, “screw it”, then you’re held accountable. If you’ve never heard, how can you be punished?

      Think of it this way: off the coast of India there is this island inhabited by a native peoples. This civilization has never had contact with another civilization. In fact, we discovered their existence not too long ago. They are the last completely secluded civilization in the world – that we know of. Air attempts have been made to gather information, but have been met with spooked natives & spears. Obviously these people have not heard about Jesus Christ.

      I ask you, are these people going to Hell? Why?

      And if so, what was God’s purpose for creating a soul that would never have the opportunity to make the decision between following or denying Him? Does God not want to be close to that creation?

      And if so, does that mean God create ssouls with the intent of placing them in Hell, as they are not able to exercise their free will in that decision? If that is not His intent, how is that not contradictory to the answers for the other questions?

      Hilary

      04/26/2011 at 12:25 PM

      • This is a very good point. What happens if the missionary gets a flat tire? Would if someone was molested by a religious authority and grew up with a rage towards the church?

        MrZissman

        04/26/2011 at 1:21 PM

    • I totally and completely agree, Berta. What you say is absolutely in accordance with scriptures. At some point in the life of every human being, they will come face to face with their Creator. If they reject him, they will not live in Heaven.

      Paula Shupe

      04/26/2011 at 1:00 PM

      • I went ahead and updated your comment so people knew who you were agreeing with.

        MrZissman

        04/26/2011 at 1:21 PM


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