QUESTION: I have a Jewish friend who is searching for spiritual truth, but when I witnessed to her she said that she would not consider Christianity because it teaches that all of her dead relatives who never believed in Jesus are in hell. How do I talk to her?

ANSWER: You believe your friend when she says that she is searching for truth, but she is not. She is merely shopping for an ideology that serves her purposes. She is seeking a system of belief that suits her needs — perhaps to give her consolation or to give her life meaning. She may think that she is searching, but she is not being honest with herself if she automatically disqualifies whatever makes her uncomfortable.

Unfortunately, the nature of truth and the quality of reality are not always comforting. We must realize that fact when we try to witness. We cannot effectively talk to a person about either heaven or hell, or who goes where, until the individual believes there there is an afterlife and a heaven to be gained and a hell to be shunned. Otherwise, you might as well be talking to that person about Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy.

Once a person believes in God as the Righteous Judge and in an afterlife, and really wants to know what God requires of us, you can more easily discuss the question of heaven and hell. You can turn to the biblical fact that the Messiah came to earth to suffer a vicarious death so that through him all might gain forgiveness and an eternal place with God in heaven. Those who reject God’s provision of salvation in Christ are not in hell because of God; they are there because their sin has separated them from God, and they never availed themselves of the way he has prescribed to bring them back to him.