Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Stories I wish weren’t in the Bible

Sometimes you come across a story in the Bible that hits you right between the eyes. As we read & think through the Scriptures we discover passages that confuse us, make us feel uncomfortable & ones that we skim over, stroking an editing pen through in our minds, never to revisit.

In this next blog series I’m going to reveal several of the stories that I wrestle with. If I’m honest these are the stories that I wish weren’t in there at all because it would make my life easier and my faith less complicated & easier to package. But God’s Word is God’s Word, and what He has spoken He expects us to listen & react too, so here goes…

The Rich Man & Lazarus – Luke 16:19-31

Jesus doesn’t talk a lot about hell, but neither is He silent on it. Luke Ch.15 spells out three illustrations of priceless things that are lost – coins, sheep, sons – and our Father God breaking sweat as He searches high & low to bring those precious belongings back to Him.

But in this story Jesus exposes the reality of the afterlife & two possible destinations – God’s exhilarating presence (heaven) or God’s devastating judgment (hell).

Most people aren’t too bothered about hell. I guess this is mainly because it’s been depicted in a frivolous manner by various cartoon programmes (e.g. Robot Hell -,

but Jesus’ image is more disconcerting than the widely held “party with the devil, booze, gambling & lap dancers” representation.

He uses the words “agony” & “torment.” The rich man’s distress & powerlessness are evident. The huge un-crossable chasm between the two destinations is apparent.

Why my discomfort? I’ve been a victim of the “turn or burn” church culture – at 11years old, I remember someone in Belfast city shouting that I “was destined for hell” – so I think I’ve back-lashed against the ungracious & uncaring presentation of biblical truth and overdosed on other aspects of God – such as His love, forgiveness & friendship.

I’m not comfortable with the concept of hell, but to deny its existence is to make light of the One I choose to follow. So rather than etch out this story, I hope that its discomfort will further motivate me to get out there & spread the Good News of Jesus, always remembering that the Good News is only good when we get the whole picture of what we’re being saved from.

One final thought. Remembering that Jesus is en route to the cross, check out His use of irony in (v31).


Mark said...

I have a feeling this is going to be a very interesting series. I know there are a few passages that immediately come to mind for me. Handling Scripture with an eye to its entirety, rather than simply focussing on the bits we like, is a constant difficulty - especially for me :)

One query, though: "overdosed" on God's "love, forgiveness and friendship"? As in, "had too much of"? Do we need to talk? ;)

Virtual Methodist said...

do remember that this parable isn't primarily about hell (indeed the word used here is Hades... the Greek place of shadows, rather than the normal one used for what we call hell ie Gehenna, the rubbish dump)... It is more about the rich's responsibility for the poor and paying heed to the warnings that you are given (ie the law and the prophets)...
Look forward to future installments...