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The crazy cousin we keeped locked in the basement

Picture of Greg Stier
Greg Stier

Are we keeping our crazy cousin locked in the basement? Are we are afraid that if we let him out he will ruin our party? After all, everyone is dressed in their Sunday best at this shindig. The cake is delicious, the punch is sweet and the fellowship is great.

If we allow our fiery, spastic, and kind-of-crazy-meets-kooky cousin out of his “space” he will not only crash our party, he’ll ruin it. He will put his hands in the cake and pour the punch on our pure white foyer carpets. He may start a fire in the middle of the room, after all, he’s a pyro. That’s why we locked him up to begin with.

On the other hand, if we let him out he will have everybody’s full attention. Boredom will disappear completely as every well cultured eye will be riveted to him, waiting for his next twitch. He will add an element of much needed danger and discomfort to our over programmed and immensely predictable party that we call church.

I say that we need to be disrupted.

And there’s nothing that can disrupt a pious party like the doctrine of hell.

It makes me cringe when I hear well manicured preachers preach well manufactured sermons that gloss over the impending danger boiling deep underneath our church basements. If we could but catch a glimpse of the blaze to come everything would change. We would change and so would our priorities.

If we really believed in the reality of hell it would transform how we do church. We would relentlessly give the call to our congregations, our small groups, Sunday school classes, youth groups and children’s ministry to rescue the perishing. Yes, I just used the word “perishing”.

I guess the question I have is this, do we really believe in hell? Do we really believe that if people die without Jesus they will spend an eternity there? Do we really believe that we have the “cure” that can rescue lost souls from the hell they are headed to and the one they may be going through today?

Jesus talked about the crazy cousin more than anyone else in the New Testament. Jesus unlocked the basement door and let the party pooper out on several occasions. As a matter of fact of the 12 times the word “hell” (“Gehenna” in the Greek) is mentioned, 11 are mentioned by Jesus.

Was he using scare tactics? Of course he was! The same kind of scare tactics I use on my four year old daughter if she runs out toward oncoming traffic. We’re talking scare tactics motivated out of sheer love for others.

Does this mean that we preach “hell fire and brimstone” to those around us? No. It does mean though that we have a “hell fire and brimstone” motivation blazing in our hearts as we pray, pursue and persuade those around us, not only about the judgment to come but the audacity of ultimate hope that is rooted only in the person and work of Jesus Christ.

Let’s let our cousin out of the basement. Let’s let him ruin our party. Let’s let his presence change our churches and our communities one rescued perishing soul at a time.

Unlikely Fighter

#1 new release in Evangelism on Amazon

The story of how a fatherless street kid overcame violence, chaos, and confusion to become a radical Christ follower.

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