According to the results of a 32-country study by researchers at universities in Spain and Israel, it’s no contest.
“When heaven and hell are considered valid final destinations, researchers find the notion of eternal bliss is three times more powerful than that of eternal damnation in shaping church attendance and frequency of prayer.” This is from a story in the Windsor Star, a Canadian newspaper.
Is this surprising? When I read the article, I was taken back to the beginnings of my own faith journey. I’ve always believed in a creator, but I decided to follow Jesus in 1990, mostly because I started listening to Christian rock and pop music and, through that, discovered a positive, loving, closer-than-close God.
Since then, the trip has had rocky moments, primarily because I had faith issues which I didn’t think I could bring to anyone without them wondering about my “salvation”.
In other words, I thought someone was going to tell me if I kept asking hard questions, I could end up in Hell. So I went from embracing the ‘carrot’ (the attraction of a loving God) to running from the ‘stick’ (the threat of God’s damnation).
The story didn’t end there, of course. (If it did, I wouldn’t be writing this essay.) After a long time and many discussions with intelligent, compassionate, non-judgmental Christians – there are more of them around than you might think – I came back to Christianity.
If I had returned to the faith because those discussions centered around the ‘stick’ – avoiding Hell – I would likely be the poster boy for judgmental, unpleasant Christianity. I’d be following Jesus only to appease an angry God who doesn’t love me – or anyone else, for that matter – and doesn’t have my best interests at heart.
But he does. In the Bible, St. Paul, one of men most responsible for spreading Christianity 2,000 years ago, wrote “God put his love on the line for us by offering his Son in sacrificial death [to pay for all the bad things we did and still do] while we were of no use whatever to him.”
It’s this love, plus the promise of a life-long, day-by-day relationship with Jesus, and a future in Heaven, that brought me to this place of faith.
I’m not about to deny the truth and suggest there isn’t a Hell and that it doesn’t influence people’s faith journeys. But more importantly, there is a God who wants every single person on this planet – including the likes of Al Qaeda terrorists – with him in Heaven.
Does that make a difference to you?