Before there was a Jews for Jesus ministry I worked for another mission. One of my tasks was to arrange church meetings for that mission’s speakers. Speaking to God’s people is always best done through the church and in a church setting. We hoped that as people in the pews got to know us and our testimonies, they would be encouraged to witness to their Jewish friends. Of course, we also hoped that some of those people would want to support our mission and pray for us.
So I phoned the pastor of a prominent Los Angeles church to see if I could arrange a meeting. He was well spoken and treated me with respect as he let me know that he could not have a mission to the Jews represented in his church. He said if I came to meet him in his office, he would gladly explain why.
I availed myself of that opportunity, and the pastor graciously received me in his office. He made me feel quite comfortable. His secretary brought in tea and cookies. The conversation consisted of small talk and since I didn’t press the matter, he introduced the subject: So you have come because you want to know why I feel that I can’t have your mission to the Jews in my church?”
His explanation was brief. “You see, I would prefer to believe that our loving God would never send a sincere follower of the Jewish religion to hell.”
We had a rather detailed discourse in which I quoted many scriptures without effect. I think that the exchange was disappointing to us both. I was almost a beginner and didn’t answer as well as I wanted to. Now I am better prepared. Here is what I would tell that pastor today:
I too would prefer to believe that no one but the most evil would go to hell. In fact, if I had my preference, hell would probably consist of a moderate singeing until the punishee would say, “Alright, I am sorry I did it. I will be good.”
When we get right down to it, the thought of hell, taken seriously, is so terrifying that I would prefer not to believe in it at all. But the fact is that reality doesn’t exist according to my preferences, understanding, or design. Nor will my preferences save anyone from a Christless eternity. Only faith in Jesus can do that. I want to be used of God to lead others to that faith.
While I do not like the idea of hell, punishment, and the destiny of those who prefer to not accept Christ, I recognize one crucial thing. I am not in charge of reality. God is!
When it comes to preferences, it is important for us to know which choices are ours to make and which are not. True beliefs are not based on what we prefer, but on what is real. True hope is found in receiving what God promised to those who respond in faith. False hopes are born when we follow preferences that diverge from what God says. We can choose to believe His Word, or we can choose to believe what is most comfortable and comforting. But we cannot choose the consequences of our beliefs or unbelief.
Furthermore, I can’t possibly think of any kind of reality that would find a mere mortal like myself to be more merciful than an all-caring, all-loving God.
God’s sorrow over our sin is perfect. I don’t understand how His love and mercy are balanced with His righteousness and justice. But in knowing God, I trust Him. God is kind and not cruel. In His infinite wisdom, He does balance all.