Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Why Do Some Go To Hell If God Loves Them?

Q - I still do not understand why people might go to hell. I believe that there's hell, but the question that was tormenting my mind lately was: does Jesus stop to love those who go to hell ? I know that those who go to hell do not want God or Jesus in their lives, but why does this relationship have to end when there is permanent mercy. I know that Jesus' love is eternal and infinite; if that is true why does it let this happen (going to hell eternally, losing God after a certain finite point)?

Loving Jesus is the life itself but why is it almost a quiz from the time we were born, that we fail or succeed eternally. It seems both as if we have a choice but we do not have a choice. Help!

A - Thanks for the questions. I can tell that you are wrestling with these quite a bit and that is a good thing.

There are a few things we must understand about the nature of God, the nature of humans, and our relationship with God.
  • God is the source of all good.  God does not create evil (which isn't really a "thing", but rather an absence of a good).  
  • God cannot act in a way that is not good (evil).
  • God allows humans to choose to do good or evil.  We have free will.  It is possible to reject God's grace.
  • God wants (wills) all be saved.
God loves us so much that he allows us to choose hell - God allows us to choose it, against what he wants for us.  Why? Because God respects our freedom so much that He would allow us to choose something bad for us. Without such freedom we could not choose to love freely either.

Love doesn't always equal nice, clean and pretty. Love isn't about feeling good. It is about what is best for the other, despite the cost to myself. As a parent this is certainly the case. I see parents make the common mistake of being a friend to their children and end up not disciplining them, which leads to spoiled brats. They then ask how they could have turned out as they did. I remember the first time I punished my oldest child. I cried more than she did. But, I did it because I truly love her.

God wants what is best for us - that is freedom to choose to love Him. Without the option to choose something else, it wouldn't be true freedom.

Thus, the Catechism says:
1036 The affirmations of Sacred Scripture and the teachings of the Church on the subject of hell are a call to the responsibility incumbent upon man to make use of his freedom in view of his eternal destiny
Ultimately, hell is being separated from God for eternity. Since we are created for union with God, it is unnatural for us to be in Hell. But, God never stops loving us. We are the ones who stop loving Him. He cannot stop loving us, because by his nature, God is love.
Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love. In this way the love of God was revealed to us: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might have life through him. - 1 John 4:8-9.
God values one of us more than all of the rest of His creation added up. Christ died on a cross and rose again so that we might have life eternal with Him. He didn't die for the stars, the mountains, the animals, the planets, etc.

He died for you and me.

The Catechism says:
220 God's love is "everlasting": "For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you." Through Jeremiah, God declares to his people, "I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you."
To be loved by God does not mean He won't allow us to choose not to love Him - even eternally.

I hope this helps.

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