Suffering in this world is terrible and limited, but suffering in the next world is terrible and eternal. And love sees it that way. Love does not shut its eyes to this world or that world. Love reckons with the reality of suffering here, and the worse reality of suffering there.
And what I see all around us today in the Christian church is the tendency to care only about the one or the other. There are these two camps:
- I’m an activist for the cause of justice and life and wholeness and shalom and flourishing!
- I’m not going to be distracted by all that. I’m going to rescue people from hell!
Here’s what I want. I want all of us at Bethlehem to say, “We will not make that choice!” We will say this sentence and mean it: “We care about all suffering now, especially eternal suffering later.”
That’s the sentence I want to leave ringing in your ears. I want you to feel whether you can embrace both of those. My guess is that there are people in this room very resistant to the first half and others who are very resistant to the second half.
I don’t want us to be among the sophisticated Christians who cannot take hell on their lips, let alone fire, or outer darkness, or gnashing of teeth, or torment. Oh no, we’re too sophisticated for that! I don’t give a rip about sophistication! I want truth! I want to know, God: Are these people that I hobnob with day after day on their way to destruction? If so, then I know what love requires.
And, there are others so jealous to guard that truth, that they’re afraid to death to fight any evil in this world. It’s going to look like liberalism, for goodness sakes! Let it look like whatever you want to call it. It’s just what [Jesus] says we should do.
Let’s be like Jesus. In every social issue from abortion to alcoholism, from AIDS to unemployment, from hunger to homelessness, let’s give the help that we would like to receive if it were us. And at every moment in that love, let us feel an even greater urgency to pray and speak and work to rescue people from everlasting suffering through the gospel of Jesus.
– John Piper, “Abortion and the Narrow Way that Leads to Life” (1.23.11)