The Ninth Floor- On Cults, Hell, and Insane Faith

6 Apr

A few years ago, I worked for a youth ministry, touring and putting on stadium events all over the country. I don’t write or talk about it a lot, there are a lot of good and bad things that happened those two and a half years, and I am still trying to sort through it all in my mind and heart. No matter what my conclusions, or how I believe and live differently then I did then, I would not take that experience back for anything in the world.

Occasionally, we had protesters at the events. One year in Anaheim, we had these guys from a cult called  the “true” church. I decided to just talk to one guy just to find out who he was and what his story was. I didn’t have any agenda, honestly, I wasn’t into debate, I just wanted to talk to him. Unfortunately, he had an agenda and it was to condemn me to hell. After a series of manipulative out of context verses spewed in hate, he had reached his ultimate conclusion. I just smiled and listened as he told me a few things he was sure of:

1. I hated him.
2. I hated God.
3. I was going to burn in hell.

It was sad, not because I believed a word he was saying, obviously but because of the hardness and anger in his eyes.

I felt bad for this man, exerting so much time and energy to be so adamantly against people. How exhausting.

I told him God loved him and that I hoped someday he would see that, and walked away.

I went inside the event, disturbed. I begin to ask God to show this man love, to attempt to open his hard heart, his blind eyes. Immediately the  story of Elijah on Mount Carmel popped into my mind.

God lit the altar on fire even though Elijah had soaked it with water, proving Himself to be the one true God, after the prophets of Baal had prayed and cried out for hours, and nothing happened.

Another thought flew into my mind- what if something like that was possible for us, for me, now today.
What if I walked outside on that hot California evening, in the middle of a drought, and approached the man saying,

“I know the God is a God of love and mercy. And to prove it to you He will make it rain tonight”

This thought irked me inside like thousand of pin pricks all over. I felt nauseous.
A million and one excuses filled my mind.

“That’s ridiculous! What if…. but…. no….”

Ultimately, I pushed the thought aside and carried on with my night.

Hours later the event ended and as I walked outside to the car, I felt the soft rain on my skin. It turned into a downpour.

At the hotel, I ended up in the elevator alone with an elderly lady I didn’t know. She didn’t look at me, she didn’t say a word to me until I stepped off onto the ninth floor and she casually remarked in a tone that made my ice run down my spine,

“It wasn’t supposed to rain tonight.”

I tell this story, not in the condemnation and regret I used to feel. I don’t live there anymore.

I don’t tell you this as a lesson in seizing the day.

I don’t even think God was disappointed or angry with me.

I don’t believe it was my lack of faith that kept me from saying something.

It was my fear of failure, because I didn’t really believe His grace was big enough to catch me.

I still lived in the lie that this is all up to me.

And as much as I scoffed at the legalism and pride this man had from thinking he was in while everyone else was out, the irony is I lived in that same exact place.

Eternal judgment is a harsh weight to carry.

The more I see the grace and love of God, the more I am so incredibly sure we have no right whatsoever to every think we can know where another human being will ultimately end up.

He is grace, He is love, and in those He is the judge.

I am not.

And you know what?

That is such a huge relief.

 

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2 Responses to “The Ninth Floor- On Cults, Hell, and Insane Faith”

  1. Sarah April 6, 2011 at 7:53 pm #

    I have been thinking about this a bit lately too. There are picketers who come to campus regularly shouting about how angry God is at everyone (I’m not sure they are from the same “church” you mentioned, but it sounds similar), and one day I heard a student walking past say to his friend, “He can’t hate everyone.”

    I think there are so many things we can’t fathom, and so many leaps we have a hard time taking, but God is always love.
    Keep on sharing. 🙂

  2. brooke April 6, 2011 at 11:32 pm #

    Sarah- Yes, it is heart breaking people would even feel the need to promote a god that hates the world. God is always love. That is the one thing we can know for sure. How freeing.

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