Imagine you get to take a tour of Hell…
“Wow, there are more people here than I expected.” you say.
“I know right! What do you want to see first?” the guide says.
“Well… anyone I know?”
“There is your sour aunt and that disappointment of a cousin.”
“Any one famous?”
“Hitler, obviously! The pride of our collection.”
“Haha, eternal damnation is funny. But who are those scores of people?”
“Oh those… those are Hitler’s victims.”
“But they are innocent!”
“No they’re not! They didn’t confess Jesus as their Lord. They are Jewish, remember. And I’ll tell you, what they had with Hitler was a walk in the park compared to this! At least his torture ended!”
Now imagine you get a tour of a universalist’s Heaven.
“Wow, there is more people here than I expected.” you say.
“I know right! What do you want to see first” the guide says
“Are my family here?”
“Yes right over there.”
“And my friends?”
“Yes, they are all here. In fact everyone you know is here.”
“Wow, I didn’t expect that!”
“Well, actually everyone is here.”
You take a moment.
“Show me the people who suffered in life. They must be having the biggest party!” you say
“I will, but don’t expect them all to be happy.”
“Well, because he is here.”
“Is that Hitler!”
“He doesn’t deserve to be here!”
“They agree with you, but it is not about deserving. It was never about that. It is only offensive to you because you don’t understand justice.”
“What are you talking about! Justice for him would be burning in hell! Hitler needs to suffer!”
“He did suffer, but I won’t call it punishment.”
“What on Earth does that mean?”
“He went through a lot of pain as Jesus introduced him to each and every single of his victims. Not just introduced, but Jesus revealed them: their humanity, their worth. It took Hitler millennia to forgive himself.”
“He shouldn’t be forgiving himself! What he did is unforgivable!”
“Forgiveness is simply giving up on the hope of a better past*… come, I want to show you something.”
You come to a space only distinguishable only by a chair and a bucket of water. A man with the eyes of someone who suffered is sitting in the chair. Hitler and Jesus are also there.
“That man died in Auschwitz. It took him a century to agree to this.” the guide says.
“Agree to what?” you say
“Agree to let Hitler wash his feet.”
The victim is sitting high and mighty, towering over Hitler, who is weeping as he walks to the victim and kneels by his feet. As he stretches out to touch the victim, it is like the victim is in pain all over again. “I understand. You didn’t deserve it. You are worth so much… so much… so much. I am so sorry… To do something so bad to something so beautiful.” His tears are flowing over his victim’s feet. The victim’s face still hard.
Jesus steps towards the victim and whispers in his ear.
“What is He saying?” you ask
“‘you can trust him'”.
Suddenly the victim’s face changes, and he begins to weep. And then screams in agony: “My children! Do you even know what you did!”
Hitler looks his victim straight in the eyes and says “I know. There is nothing in my life that I regret more.”
Jesus is also crying by this stage. The victim’s anger subsides and there is only grief. Jesus takes Hitler’s hand and draws him to stand up. The three huddle together: the victim, the perpetrator and God. Crying. This lasts for an hour.
Then the victim, not weeping, but still shaky, stands up and gently takes Hitler by the hand. He gestures to him to have a seat. The victim kneels and takes water and pours it over Hitler’s feet.
A moment of complete silence passes. The victim leans forward, places his forehead on Hitler’s leg and whispers “I forgive you”.
The guide leans over and whispers “You think justice is about punishment. Justice is about setting injustice right.” He softly giggles “Look at how pleased Jesus is with Himself.”
*Anne Lamott said this