The loudest evangelists talk about sinners going to hell. It’s a strong message that is broadcast loudly. Immorality, sinful lifestyles, and godlessness are the downfall of the world. What gets overlooked, both by churchgoers and by outsiders who are fielding criticisms directed at them, is God’s infinite grace.
My wife and I made a goal to read the whole Bible last year. We did well for a few months before we fizzled out, but in that time we got most of the way through the old testament. The same story kept repeating itself: people built false idols, intermarried with pagans, stole, killed, and engaged in debauchery. It enraged God, who sent messengers to tell them that He would destroy them if they didn’t repent. When they repented, God spared them, redirected them, and continued to love them. I asked myself, when will these idiots learn? Then I realized we’re still those same idiots. We live for the money, we drink and do drugs and sleep around, and we hurt each other and ourselves. When you think of someone engaged in a party lifestyle, you don’t think of them living to 65 or beyond, but when you think of someone who has at least shifted their mindset away from the party lifestyle, they seem more grounded and peaceful, and you can imagine them living longer lives. I think that’s a manifestation of God’s grace and mercy for people who, even if they don’t believe, aren’t engaged in debauchery.
So we have this wrathful Old Testament God who threatens to destroy people if they don’t turn back to Him. Understandable that that would make you think you’re going to Hell. But there’s a sequel. The only way to get into heaven is to be pure. Humans, by nature, are sinful. There is nothing we can do to change that, we all sin in one way or another. We can’t offset it either, whether it’s being charitable or going to church every Sunday and Wednesday or even every day of the week. The Bible says in several places, “If you sin, you will surely die.” Well, that’s all of us. So God brought Jesus to earth. He was human, he felt anger and sadness and joy just like the rest of us. He hung out with whores, abusers, immigrants, poor people, sick people, disabled people, and people on high horses who thought they knew what religion was all about. But he was also sinless. He was perfect. He was the only human who could have gotten into Heaven. Then God had him brutally killed on our behalf. He was executed to a degree befitting all the combined sins of humanity. “If you sin you will surely die,” only Jesus died for us with our sins on his back. Since He was sinless, He wasn’t dying for His own sins, which meant that He was dying for ours. That’s how He saved us from eternal damnation. Churchy people like to say Jesus paid our debts and saved us, but they don’t really elaborate. I’m not sure if they themselves really understand what it means. This is what it’s all about.
Jesus’ death and resurrection was a sacrifice from God on our behalf, and a gift for us to take. Our sin debt was paid, and Hell was no longer the default. Yes God judges, but all we have to do is ask for God’s grace through Jesus, and it’s ours. Just like a father figure on Earth, God understands we’re not perfect. We’ll fuck up, and there may be consequences for that, but He loves us and wants us to become better, and hopes that we love Him in return.
You say you struggle with drugs? My brother struggled with drugs for years. In that time, my dad never hated him. He caused my dad a lot of pain, sadness, and frustration, but my dad never hated him or gave up on him, and wanted him to get better. After awhile, my dad quit bailing him out of jail and let him sit in there for his 72 hour holding period, but that wasn’t out of hate or spite, it was a consequence. When my brother finally asked for help, my parents got him into rehab within 24 hours, and when he got clean, my dad was so unbelievably happy and proud. That’s God’s love, and it’s available for all of us if we just ask. No matter how bad we fuck up, no matter if we fuck up again, we’re never too far gone to ask for help, and we’re never beyond redemption.
That got a little long-winded, but I hope it helps. For what it’s worth, I didn’t understand any of that until last year. Turns out I was also lost, but not too far gone.
If you want some perspective from a regular, imperfect person who doesn’t always understand God’s will, I’d highly recommend getting “The Embrace” by Ryan Kirby. I think it’s available in the Heart Support store. It’s a 21 day devotional, takes less than 10 minutes a day to work through, and contains first-person stories from a metal singer who’s just a lost kid at heart and doesn’t always understand or acknowledge what God wants from us. It’s real and relatable, and it’s easy enough to be doable, but still makes you think.