I was reading Looking for Alaska (which I completely recommend by the way) when I ran across this quote:
‘I am going to take this bucket of water and pour it on the flames of hell, and then I am going to use this torch to burn down the gates of paradise so that people will not love God for want of heaven or fear of hell, but because He is God.’
I loved this because this year I've been thinking a lot about what drives me to believe in God and to be a Christian. Is it just because that is the way I was raised? Because I truly believe in the God of the Bible? Or is it really because I fear eternal damnation?
I remember the first time I thought about heaven and hell. My grandfather had died and my grandmother, Catholic through and through, had told me I needed to pray for him every night to help him get out of purgatory. I had no idea at the time what that meant but I did what she asked because I loved my grandfather. However, that is when the fear started. It told me there was clearly something bad that could happen to you when you died and I took to begging God not to let anything happen to me, not to let me go to hell.
I would be lying if avoidance of hell and wanting to feel secure in my belief that heaven was what waited on the other death wasn't my main motivation the day I "got saved." Even now, in the middle of the night when my brain is sifting through all the thoughts jumbled in my head, I imagine something happening- a vein bursting in my brain, my heart stuttering to a stop, that last frightened breath and.... what? What is next? And I find myself praying, God, have mercy on my soul.
But I don't want my motive for loving God to center around a "life insurance policy." I don't want my life to be centered around avoiding punishment. In Love Wins Rob Bell talks about living our lives here and now to create heaven here on earth. Love now. Change the world here to be the best it can be. Don't just count on the flames of hell and the gates of heaven. I want to love God because I believe he loves us. Unchecked love. Real love. Love that can make you angry because it doesn't make sense. Love for us all. Love because he is love.