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Chaplain's Corner: Hell on Earth

by Greg Schmidt

Triple digit, oppressive heat … in June! Very little in this life gets my attention more than when the heat index climbs past 100 degrees … with no wind! And so, I have a sneaking suspicion that getting our attention is exactly what the biblical writers had in mind when promoting discussions about the dangers of “H E Double Hockey Sticks!”

Contrary to what the old school Revival preachers of yesteryear ranted and raved about from their tents during the mid-1900s, today many teachers and preachers believe that any actual flames from a place called “hell” was likely the least of things the original writers were concerned about. Why? Because when they referred to “hades” they were very likely describing the actual non-stop burning that went on at the local dump. And what may have most preoccupied their minds was the separation that occurs when one has been “cast” into the never-ending “pit” or “dump” of life. After all, who wants to visit you -- much less develop a relationship with you -- when your address leads them to the flame-engulfed, always smoldering, smoke-filled, nasty, smell of rot and death that emanates from the dump?! Dumps separate. They separate fresh from rotten …  useable from no longer functioning … from worth investing into worthless …  good from bad. And from God. But not because the Almighty has separated Himself from the dump. No, it’s because you and I have chosen to separate ourselves from Him.

We have a phrase for that choice.  It’s called “hell on earth”. That’s what we experience every time we separate ourselves from God. We walk alone. It’s our choice. Whether we’ve made that choice because of rebellion or a response to unfortunate circumstances, the result is the same. Remember, God never withdraws from us. He’s “… standing at the door knocking …” (Revelations 3:20). His all-consuming love intends to take the heat and flame out of our desire and our anger. His offer is to give a “… cup of cold water …” (Matthew 10:42) that addresses the thirst we have for mercy, forgiveness, and love. Not even the dump you create for yourself separates you from the One who loves you more than you can ever imagine. God will offer His hand to help you stand up. He will even guide you out. But you have to want to change … and move from whatever or whoever is separating you from Him and actively walk toward oneness with Him! You have to move “… from mourning to dancing!” (Psalm 30:11a).

I believe the team at Newton Presbyterian Manor is imitating God when we try daily to offer a cup of cold water in Jesus’ name. Encouraging words or acts of kindness, hands that caress or are folded in prayer, arms that hold tight or are extended to provide a lift are witnessed (and available!) every single day of the week by members of our team. We don’t offer you the “salvation” that gets you into heaven. Only God can do that. But we are His hands and feet and are here to “save you” or “offer a way through” the overwhelming feelings that accompany growing older.

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