For several years my Dad was a prosecuting attorney, but for a short time also maintained a side practice where he would create wills, handle estates, and facilitate legal agreements and contracts. Two things he abjectly refused to participate in were divorces and custody battles. Obviously those are realities in our world and I’m not suggesting that Dad did so out of some sense that he was making a higher moral choice than attorneys who offer those services. I tend to believe Dad couldn’t do it because it would have broken his heart.
I’ve seen one custody battle take place up close and personal in the lives of some friends of mine. And after watching it, I knew exactly why as an attorney I would have no part in it. It’s excruciating, particularly when the children are very young.
In most states, when a child reaches the age of accountability, they are allowed to choose who they want to live with – mom or dad. Barring some extenuating circumstance that the child doesn’t fully comprehend, the courts allow them to make that life-altering decision. That was the case in the custody battle I witnessed, and I don’t know that I will ever get over the devastation I saw in the parent who wasn’t chosen.
But here’s why that matters to our discussion of Hell. Satan chose rebellion to God, and in a manner of speaking, he moved out of the Father’s house and will be living apart from Him forever. What remains to be settled is the custody battle that is currently raging between Satan and God over humanity. Both of them desperately want us to live with them. All of us who have reached the age of accountability get to make our choice. And in this case, it’s one or the other – there won’t be visitation in eternity.
In understanding this issue (as best we can, given that we lack the mind and full capacity of God), it can’t be repeated too often: neutral, unaligned, dispassionate, average people do not go to Hell. Sinners go to Hell. Meaning that those who choose to sin are picking where they want to go and who they want to live with. And I can only imagine that the pain I saw in the un-chosen parent during my friends’ custody battle is magnified a million times over experienced by our Heavenly Father when we reject Him. And we have all rejected Him. Romans tell us plainly:
There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one (Romans 3:10-12).
And again a few verses later, For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). What this means is that each and every one of us have made our choice. And therefore, if every single one of us went to Hell it would be just. Our choices brought us to the gates of Hell and we have no one to blame for that reality but ourselves. To be forced to face the consequences isn’t malevolence on God’s part; it’s justice.
If you’re still struggling to accept that, make this issue personal. Think back to the last time you witnessed a true injustice:
- An elderly person losing their life savings because they trusted a phone scammer who will never be caught
- A murderer walking free because of a technicality during the collection of evidence
- A pervert admits to sexual assault but the statute of limitations has expired and he can’t be tried
Whenever we see these things, it gnaws at us. It isn’t fair, we know it, and we long for a way to make it right – some of us even consider vigilante justice in the hope that it might at least bring some peace or closure to the victims.
Until we had officially exhausted every single episode ever made of the program, my wife and I were obsessed with a television series called “Forensic Files.” First, it had the greatest narrator voice of all time in Peter Thomas. Second, it was fascinating to see how a random fiber found on a piece of shag carpet could end up bringing the bad guy to justice. And finally, we appreciated the show because it always left you with a satisfying sense of resolution – the bad guys got what was coming to them. We long for that feeling as human beings.
It’s why people remain fascinated and even uneasy with unsolved murders like that of 6-year-old Jon Benet Ramsey. In fact, not to overstate the case, but our insatiable need for justice as humans is precisely why we have judicial systems in every civilized corner of the world. Have you ever paused to consider why that urge is so strong? Animals do not have such systems of retribution – so why us? The answer is self-evident: because we are made in the image of God and thus attributes of His perfect character are reflected in our imperfect character...