April 29, 2018
John 15:6-8…“Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.” vs. 6
Some verses of our scripture bring amazing comfort and peace. Others are wielded like clubs to manipulate and exclude. Jesus’ words about the vine can be used in both ways. Today’s verse has been used for centuries as a warning. People are told that if they don’t abide in Jesus and believe in him they will be tossed aside and ultimately gathered and burned. In other words, they will be thrown into the eternal fires of hell. Some folks are just fine with such interpretations. They believe that fear of punishment is a powerful motivator and that this is what some people need to remain obedient. It is true that, in a vineyard, the detached branches of the vine are collected and burned. But there’s a problem with using that metaphor when it’s applied to people. In fact, it violates everything we read in the gospel about Jesus’ ministry to the lost and the broken. He never goes around trying to scare people into righteousness–that’s not his model. Instead, we’re told that he loves all people, even those who rejected him. He offers heaven to the withered and the impoverished, all those who are suffering in the hell of human abuse and pain. As they attach themselves to him and abide in him, they experience inclusion and serenity, exactly what their broken hearts have desired. And that’s the gospel truth!
Thought for the Day: What do I believe about hell?