BY: TAYLOR NEFF
I have been pretty silent this semester when it comes to writing for The Preface, but when my sister-in-law called me and said there were extremists on campus screaming at people they were going to burn in hell, I knew I needed to write something.
I am a bible-believing Christian and attend a nondenominational church in Nappanee. Though the extremists did not admit to what church they attend, they did say they too were bible-believing Christians that also were not affiliated with a denomination. And to all my friends and fellow classmates that joined me near the Grill, all the nonbelievers, use-to-be-believers, and sort-of-believers that witnessed this traumatic event, I have a confession. I am sorry that these extremists came to campus and with their damning mouths forgot to tell you that God is not a monster.
I spent about 40 minutes interviewing the extremist named Brad (he refused to give me his last name). During that time he asked me if I had sex outside of my marriage, damned me to hell, and put the blame of my friends “burning in hell” on me. He was extremely vulgar. There were several moments I thought he was either going to spit on me for my sin or attack the crowd. But what I remember most was the man standing on the platform, waving a bible with his hand (unopened), and condemning those around me. I had the most overwhelming feeling to grab the bible from his hand and read the sweet and alluring good news that Jesus Christ actually brings to us.
“Today, after talking with a young and promiscuous woman on your campus,” said Brad, “she walked away crying because she was really that afraid of hell. I think you should feel proud that I was able to get her thinking and emotional about her eternity.”
But what Brad was also forgetting to mention, as well as the other men there with him, was that there are wonderful benefits when one knows God in an intimate way. Such things like peace, patience, kindness, joy, love, goodness and not ugly things like judgment and hate. Knowing God brings life, not death! The bible that I read says that God did not send Jesus to condemn the world but to save it because “God so loved the world!” These men were waving it around like a fly-swatter when it is actually a light in our darkest days, bringing comfort and joy beyond our human understanding.
With that being said, what the men were saying had truth to what I believe and many Christians believe. I believe that this life has a lot to do with happens in the afterlife, and that the good news of Jesus has a lot to do with bringing his glorious and wonderful kingdom to earth by ministering to those around us. However, I do not believe that standing on a piece of cement with a bible in your hand does not give someone jurisdiction to scream at strangers they are going to burn in hell.
Brad and his friends terrifyingly burned a ministry that is happening on our college campus. No matter if you are pro-choice or anti-marriage equality, I know that many students here on campus are using their freedoms to bring God’s kingdom to IUSB. So, it was sickening to me listening to these men publically judge students and potentially and seriously damage the ministry already taking place.
Friends and classmates, God is not a monster. He is a loving Father that indeed is calling you to him this very day, and if you choose to accept him, he is gracious and forgiving and yearns to give you the desires of your heart. He does not only call you to himself so that you can avoid burning in hell. Hell is a very real place and I don’t desire for any of you to even joke about “rather being in hell than in heaven with extremists like them” because there are so many other things being forgotten about than just “life after death.” There is true joy to be experienced now, and I am sorry that sometimes Christians are the reason you may have rejected God.
In closing, all of my friends, all the nonbelievers, use-to-be-believers, and sort-of-believers, my Jesus that was born in the middle of a genocide, in a smelly barn, then ministered on the streets, boats, temples, and houses, is a God that forgives the prostitutes and murderers, that saves people from shame and guilt and rejection, and he is my guide and counselor and best friend and first love. And I desire for you to know him, but I pray that you will see past the ugly things the extremists said this week. Don’t let their wrongful delivery turn you off to the validity of the gospel.