I can’t imagine being able to be happy in heaven knowing that people I loved here on earth are in hell – or, in fact, any people, though I daresay Mr Hitler in hell wouldn’t worry me terribly – although maybe in my perfected state, it would. Any which way, the problem of hell haunts me, as it does many. We had a good discussion of it last week, and cleverer men and women than me have been foxed by it, so I’m going to follow up on Geoffrey instead of getting out of my depth on hell, I’ll do it elsewhere instead – so feel free to pull me out of the deep hole I am about to enter.
I’m glad Geoffrey agrees that only God knows who is going to heaven. I have a bias here, as many will. My later father was a wonderful man who I loved more than anyone. He was not a Christian, in fact he was, if anything, anti-Christian. But he promised my mother on her death-bed that he would make sure I was brought up in her Christian faith, and, bless him, that he did. Not all that waiting outside of churches and village halls ever brought him into the church, not even physically. He had his reasons for his views, but the one time I tried engaging him in it, he simply shut down the conversation with “I promised your late mother, and I’m doing nothing that would run counter to her wish. You’re a young lass and I could out argue you, and I’m not doing it so drop it.” I was indignant at the time. I was pretty sure (as you are when you’re 14) that I could out argue him, but later on I realised what he was doing, and how much it reflected his love for my mother and his respect for his pledged word. But he died as he had lived, outside any church and refusing to countenance any priest at his death bed. He never once said a word to deter me from my preferences, he drove me wherever I needed to go. Yet he should, by a strict reading, be unsaved. I can’t imagine being happy in heaven knowing he was in hell. So if sometimes I worry at this one like a dog at a bone, that’s the main reason – that and a soft heart (and no doubt head).
We are told , of course, that Heaven is beyond our imaginings, and that we shall be changed. Can we be so utterly changed that it would not matter to us if someone we once loved was suffering? If we are changed into a better likeness of God I can’t see how that could be, because we know God so loved us that He sent Jesus to live and die and be resurrected for us, and if our love is to be conformed to his love, isn’t it likely that we’d feel the same way? Such a puzzle, for sure – and I am thankful that we are told we must trust utterly in God.