Why should it matter to us whether the god that someone else serves is real or not? Whether that god is fundamentally different than our god or not? Because our God is the only one who declares, unequivocally, what happens to such people:
They are dying.
They are dying without the hope of heaven. And I know it's popular for us to look at them, knowing how much we love them in our own hearts, and decide that God could never really condemn them. Decide that God doesn't really send anyone to a lake of fire, to a place where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.
We've told ourselves all kinds of things to put our minds at ease on this. We've asked a thousand difficult questions to try to write God out of His own Word, His own promises. What if someone never hears about Jesus and therefore never has the opportunity to believe in Him? Would God really damn such a person forever just because of the unfortunate situation into which he was born? Well, what if someone faithfully gives their whole life to what they believe is the real God? Would God really condemn such a person for being wrong about who He is, when that person honestly didn't know they were wrong?
We don't want to believe that our loving God, although clearly having a place like Hell, would never use it. Except, of course, for those people that we think condemnable (and that's where our grace stops). But just for God issues? Nah.
Do you understand this? Do you see how far we have come? God says without any buffer that He is the way, the truth, and the life. Jesus says, no one comes to the Father except through Him. God makes clear that He is a jealous God; He does not tolerate rivals. Those who do not know Him, He will not know in the final days.
And here we are saying that the only way you really go to Hell is if you do something deplorable like rape a woman or kill a child.
Hear this: a rapist, a child molester, a murderer who turns his heart toward God has more of a promise of Heaven than the most generous, kind, loving man who knows Him not.
I'm not saying it's up to us to figure out who God redeems and who God condemns, how He makes those decisions, how His heart aches or breaks or mends over these kinds of things. What I am saying is that God has been very clear about what He requires of His people. And even if we don't want to think that our God, who created the Heavens and the Earth, also has a Hell and He's not afraid to use it, we do have a responsibility, as faithful children of our God, to take Him at His Word.
And His Word, on this, is clear.
It's not popular. It's not politically correct. It's not without its social awkwardness. We live in a world that wants to accept everybody, that wants to embrace everyone. We live in a world where it's rude, arrogant, or worse to dare to tell someone that what they believe isn't actually working for them. We don't want to offend anyone. We don't want to rattle any chains.
But let me tell you this - prisoners need their chains rattled! That's the only way they come free.
And you may not want to offend anyone, but are you willing to lose them? Those who live outside of the Word of God are perishing. They're dying. And you - we - have life. We have life to offer to the dying. And we settle for tolerance. We settle for relativity. We settle for selling out, saying that our God, who spoke so clearly on this issue, didn't really mean it.
If He didn't mean this, how can we know that He ever meant anything?