I’ve heard it said by Christians that their primary reason for being a Christian is so that they don’t go to Hell. It’s a pretty logical reason. After all, trusting in a God that tells you you’re free from eternal damnation is a pretty appealing selling point. Hell is portrayed as a pretty terrible place, and Heaven sounds pretty amazing.
But that’s wrong. It’s not only wrong, but it’s also a damaging way to think of your faith. Imagine it like this: A woman in some far-off culture is engaged in an arranged marriage. The man she is betrothed to is a terrible person. He’s selfish, abusive, and definitely not someone she wants to spend the rest of her life with. In desperation, she finds a stranger that is willing to marry her. She doesn’t love him, and there is definitely no intimacy between them, but it’s an escape from the arranged marriage. The guy she marries is an amazing, loving man who does all he can to care for and please his wife. Still, she has no love for him. His only value to her is in his ability to keep her away from the first man.
How do you think this makes the man she married feel? In spite of all he has done for her and all the love he has for her, the only reason she stays with him is so that she doesn’t have to go to the first man. I don’t know about you, but if I was that man, I would be pretty distraught over her relationship with me. It’s absurd! I’ve poured myself out for this person and still, she only loves what she can get from me.
This example makes the idea seem pretty ridiculous, yet that is exactly what we do to God when we say the only reason we’re Christians is so that we don’t have to go to Hell. We only value Him for what He can get us. That’s a pretty lousy thing to base a relationship off of. It doesn’t equate to much of a relationship at all. It seems that in doing this, we’ve broken the most important commandment that God has given us:
“And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’” – Mark 12:30
God desires a relationship with us, not simply an agreement to live with Him. The joy of going to Heaven shouldn’t be that we’re not going to Hell, it should be that our Savior is there! There should be no place we’d rather go than Heaven simply because God is there. The presence of the Creator of the universe will be eternally with us. I can think of no greater reward.
“Men or nations who think they can revive the Faith in order to make a good society might just as well think they can use the stairs of Heaven as a short cut to the nearest chemist’s shop.” – C.S. Lewis, Screwtape Letters
We cannot use the Creator as a means to our own end. Following Him is something we do out of reverence and love for Him, not to advance our own goals. The Almighty will not bend to the will of anyone, and will not be used as a stepping stone to something else. He is the ultimate destination.
I don’t think many Christians realize that God is literally the only thing that makes Heaven amazing and Hell so terrifying, even without the fact that He created both of them. If God wasn’t in Heaven I wouldn’t want to go there. Even if it was still a land of peace and joy, with everything I could ever want. Because it couldn’t truly have everything I could ever want. If Christ is truly my greatest desire, then I won’t be content with the most perfect of circumstances if He isn’t there, and even the worst of circumstances is bearable with Him by my side.
If God resided in an afterlife of suffering and pain, I would endure all of it for the opportunity to endure it with Him. If Heaven was absent of His presence, it would be the most unbearable of Hells.
Jesus Christ should be our first love. He’s not a shortcut to your own desires or just a rescuer from bad circumstances. He is everything. He deserves all of our love. Don’t treat Him as a tool for your own will.