“If you don’t believe in Hell, what about justice for Hitler?”

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.”

“Everyone?!”

    “Everyone.”

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.”

“How so?”

    “Well, because he is here.”

“Is that Hitler!”

    “Yes”

“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

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The wrathful God

The idea of God as a judge (and therefore a God of wrath) has come to a head in the person of Jesus. His life is like a conversation, with the Pharisees being very upset that He says He speaks for God, but does not behave in the appropriate way. He even goes as far as to say “If you see me, you see the Father”.

They mumble “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”

They crucify Him, and mock Him, asking Him to bring a little wrath their way. Yet He just hangs there… He forgives them… He dies. And in their minds that is the end of that for this blasphemer.

But it isn’t, his resurrection validates what He says about Himself. If you look at the parable of the wicked husbandman, after killing the heir, the Pharisees say the husbandman deserves wrath. Surely the wrath will come now!

But it doesn’t.

This should have been the end of the wrathful God: we do the absolute worst we can to God i.e. crucify Him, and receive only forgiveness, love and compassion. Like poking a sleeping lion, we poke harder and harder, until we realize the lion isn’t sleeping, it is dead. The wrathful God is a farce.

But we have managed to continue the conversation by turning something so clear into the mangled mess of mind gymnastics that is “the Father needs to punish something and therefore punishes his Son instead of us”.

The conversation continues, but now it is happening inside of us. For we have an inner Witness, who knows the Father as only “Father”. And that uncomfortable feeling you have with the ludicrous idea of God punishing innocence instead of us, is a call to let go of your fear and believe what God has been saying all along…

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Our Vows

Before my wife, Christy-Joy, and I we got married we spoke a lot about our vows. We spoke about what we can, and cannot promise each other. We spoke about what we would want to hold on to through the years.

There is an argument that we would be married either way, so why bother spending so much time on the vows, but being able to reference back to our vows has meant so much to us already.

Here are my vows to Christy-Joy. Her vows were similar, but using her words.


TO ALL:

Public vows has the interesting dynamic to it. What I am saying, I am saying to Christy-Joy, but I do it publicly so I want all of you to also hear it and understand it. Christy-Joy and I have obviously spoken a lot about what marriage means and why would we get married in the first place.

One of the most beautiful understandings of marriage comes from the catholic church. In the catholic church marriage is considered a sacrament, like baptism or communion is in the protestant church. But in the catholic church a sacrament is more than a symbol, it is a sign of grace by which divine life is dispensed to us. And although the marriage ceremony is conducted by a priest, it is the only sacrament not performed by a priest. It is performed by the two people in the marriage to each other.

This means marriage is more than a union. It means marriage is perpetual ministry. A means of dispensing divine life to each other.

I choose this understanding.

TO CHRISTY:

Christy-Joy, I take you – all of you with your past, your present, your future, your love and your fear – as my wife, forsaking all others.

I choose you to be my primary ministry.

TO ALL:

Another thing I want to explain is the Trinity. Father, Son and Spirit. One, in and through Love. Three members of one family. Finding themselves in each other. “Father” only because of Son. “Son” only because of Father. The deepest truth of all things is this Relating. “God”, as a singular, is not a being. “God”, as a singular, is a space in which love flows.

And this is what I’m getting at. Marriage is starting a family, which is the image of the Trinity. But more than that, it is watered from the original well.

TO CHRISTY:

I choose you to start a family with. To join myself to you. To become One. Like the Father, Son and Spirit is one. A single being, bound not by muscles and tendons, but by love.

I promise to participate in relationship with you through what life brings. To persevere through the dark times, for better for worse, through sickness and in health, for richer for poorer, to have and to hold, until death do us part.

I read somewhere that marriage is a lifelong meditation on one person. I choose you to be that person. I want to be the primary witness of your life and love. And I want you to be mine.

And in meditating on you and finding more of you. I promise to treasure what I find.


As newly weds the part that means the most to us, is the idea of taking all of the other person. Not leaving anything behind. It is especially powerful as we get to know each other better and we can affirm “I have chosen this part as well”. In a way, the one time vow is a continual process of choosing each other and choosing each other’s darkness.

The other part that stands out to us at the moment, is choosing each other as our primary ministry. It frames our long term plans, and our day to day. It focuses us, and reminds us “this person is important enough to love for the rest of your life”.

My wife and I

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Life, near-death and death

Yesterday, a friend told me about a vast study on near-death experiences. One thing that all of the experiences had in common was meeting a being of love clad in light. The being would ask them, without any form of condemnation or judgment, what they did with their life. Their life would then be revealed back to them, some would say it felt like reliving it, some saw it projected. Either way, the being would highlight two things: moments you loved and moments you learned.

It was implied that after all is said and done, this is what matters in a life.

This is what remains.

Brother do you believe in an afterlife
Where our souls will both collide
In some great Elysium
Way up in the sky
Free from our shackles, our chains
Our mouths, our brains
We’ll open all the gates
And we will walk careless
Straight into the light

I’ve never felt so enlightened
With every page I turn
I only find myself feeling more alone
Posing questions to a silent universe
My very thoughts a curse
They just seem to multiply
Forever in my mind

Brother don’t grow up
Brother please never grow up

Hold out against the night
Guard your hope with your life
For the darkness, she will come
Oh and you will have nowhere left to run

Oh but your eyes are wider than mine
And help me to sleep
I just hope that age does not erase
All that you see
Don’t let bitterness become you
Your only hopes are all within you

Hold out against the night
Guard your hope with your life

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A thought on road rage and healing justice

I was driving to Stellenbosch the other day and as I turned onto the highway, on the on-ramp there was a taxi parked with its hazards on and a warning triangle out. This meant we didn’t have the normal run up onto the highway and I had to wait for a gap.

I drive an automatic ’92 Toyota Corolla with only three gears. Added to that my car has a tendency to die if I hit the gas hard and then hesitate. So when there was a gap in the traffic I decided against it, especially considering that after that car it was completely open.

As I was about to drive off, the car behind me pulled out, gave me a dirty look as he passed me and screamed away. (Thus stopping me from driving off.) I was absolutely furious. That undignified feeling of “it is just not right” haunted me for nearly 20 minutes.

As I was steaming I realized my feeling of “this is not right” is a longing for righteousness and justice. And righteousness is a characteristic of the Father. I was longing for the Father. This thought comforted me a bit. Then I started wondering what do I want. What will make this discontent go away?

My gut tells me I want to retaliate. Maybe flipping him the bird or getting in front of him and driving slow on purpose. But I know this won’t actually appease my sense of justice, it will only escalates the situation.

So what do I really want?

I want to stand in front of him and tell him “yes I know I missed that gap, but my car is a bit sluggish, I just needed you to be patient.” I want him to see me as a person, not simply another car on the road. And I wanted him to go “oh I understand”. That is all. That would bring me peace.

The converse would also happen. I would see from his perspective. I would see his urgency and the car in front of him refusing to take a perfectly good gap.

And that would be righteousness.

Maybe God’s righteousness does not consist in simply punishing the perpetrators of violence, but by exposing and stripping away the fear that motivated and blinded the perpetrators. Thus allowing the victims and perpetrators to truly see each other.

This is restorative justice, this is healing justice.


One of the best examples of this type of justice is the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

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The truth about being biblical

There are over 40000 different denominations in Christianity, and although this statistic has some overlap between countries, it is still staggering. Wikipedia has a list of some of them . (Interestingly I cannot find my own little pigeon hole on this list.)

Every single one of these denominations (as institutions) believe they are truly correct. Some of them believe this to the extend that they and they alone are the “true church”. Most won’t go that far, but they all definitely believe that the way they understand and do things is the more correct way. Thinking your opinion is the correct one, is inherent in having an opinion in the first place and there is nothing wrong with that per se.

The problem is that all of these denominations base their views on the Bible. They all have some verses to prove their particular points. Discussion between denominations are rarely fruitful, because the underlying opinion is that “I am biblical and therefore you are not”, but both participants can use the Bible to prove their contradicting points. Verses are thrown at each other; and context and interpretation is used to push aside contradicting verses.

Recently I have been in conversation with a friend of mine about the seventh day Sabbath. He believes celebrating the Sabbath on the seventh day is very important and I don’t (although I do believe in purposefully resting). He has made a thorough study of it and has a lot of scripture to back up his view point. As we discussed the subject it dawned on me the question “where is it in the Bible?” is simply not enough for the discussion. Or even “how do you interpret this or that verse?”.

All the denominations in Christianity are all based on the Bible*. The difference between them isn’t, as they all would like to believe, about reading and interpreting the Bible correctly, but the reason behind interpreting the Bible in their specific way. In the end it is actually all about your preference. “Why do you choose to interpret it that way?”

This idea will make a lot of people uncomfortable, it exposes the fact (yes, I choose the word “fact” intentionally) that “Sola scriptura” (“by Scripture alone”) simply isn’t good enough to base your doctrine upon or settle any debate.

The idea of “Sola scriptura” is of course closely linked to the Biblical infallibility. Which, ironically enough, isn’t biblical. You might immediately think of 2 Timothy 3:16:

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,

I totally agree with that verse. Scripture is useful… not infallible. You are also God-breathe (Genesis 2:7), and you are not infallible.

That being said, all of this does not leave us stranded in a realm of relative truth. It simply forces us to reconsider where we begin in our search for absolute truth.

I would suggest starting with the infallible Word of God, his self revelation, Jesus (John 1). The author of Hebrews starts his letter with this idea:

God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son… – Heb 1:1,2

Jesus is how God speaks to us. He is the incarnate word. God saying “you’ve got it all wrong, this is Who I truly am.”

Ironically we can miss this greatest of all truth by being obsessed with Bible study, instead of relating with the God the Bible tells us about. As Jesus told the Pharisees: “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life.” (John 5:39,40)

So what does the infallible Word of God teach us?

He teaches that everyone is wrong. That his Father is fundamentally and solely a Father, He is nothing else, He is not multifaceted.

Jesus teaches us to love our enemies, because our Father is like that (Matthew 5:43-45).

And if we see Jesus we see the Father (John 14:9). Consider that when thinking about the crucifixion: the exact representation of the invisible God (Hebrews 1:3, Colossians 1:15) would rather die than punish us.

This is where we start. This is what is infallible. This needs to be our “why” when interpreting the scripture. Only in the light of this is “the scripture useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness”.


Ps, I do understand the irony of talking about many different viewpoints each saying theirs is the correct one and then proposing my own version of correct. However, I hope you see that I try to address the problem.

*There are a couple of exceptions to this, but even if they don’t base all their doctrine on the Bible they have a biblical reason for doing so (for example Jesus talking about the keys of the kingdom that kingdom (Matthew 16:19))

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Knowing and not knowing the Father

Matthew 11:27 is one of my favourite verses in the Bible. Jesus says “No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”

It throws out all our attempts at knowing and understanding the Father. “No one knows the Father…” We are all wrong. Think of the impact this has on the Old Testament. This disqualifies Moses, David, Solomon or any other author of the Bible as the authority on who the Father is. However there is more to the sentence. “No one… expect those to whom the Son reveals Him.” It is reasonable to ask if Moses and David’s perception of the father could be correct. How would we know if someone’s perception of the Father is revelation from Jesus?

My father is a retired police officer and an elder in the church. There are a lot of people that would relate to him in either of these roles. These people know that he is a father, but they don’t relate to him in that way. Only his children does.

Jesus knows that people think his Father is a judge and a wrathful warmonger, someone to be feared. However, He doesn’t experience Him in that way. He experiences Him as Father. In my case just because I don’t relate to my dad as a police officer doesn’t make him less of a police officer. But what Jesus is saying is that only his experience of his Father is valid, any other experience is false.

I’ve heard someone say that if you have any concepts of God that does not fit with the Father of Jesus, it is not God. I will go a bit further, since we could still be temped to understand the Father of Jesus as a multifaceted being: a Father to Jesus, but a judge to us. The reference point for truth about the Father is Jesus’ own specific experience of his Father, not simply simply “Father of Jesus”. Jesus knows intimacy with the Father since eternity. That knowing is what He shares with us.

Jesus says in Matthew 11:27 that He reveals to us what He experiences and all the rest is wrong.

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