*(the picture of Bush has nothing to do with anything...I just thought his confused look was hilarious)
This is a question that seems to turn up in every objection to universalism Ive seen thus far, so I thought maybe id blog about it finally
If Hell is not eternal, and everyone eventually gets to be with God...whats the point of doing good or following God? Shouldn't we just do what we want now, since it doesn't matter anyway?
I think people ask this question (as I did too once) because the idea of Ultimate Reconciliation really causes us to reassess the foundations of the Christian faith. And in this case, it reassess our motivation to serve God. That motivation, I think, is often clouded by our evangelical conception; that following God in this life yields the "treat" of heaven, while failing to do so yields the "spanking" of eternal hell. So when universalism takes out eternal hell and replaces it with age-long chastisement, I suppose one could justify that they dont need to serve God, since the punishments are only temporary anyway.
But if a husband continually cheats on his wife, and justifies it by saying,"well, she wont leave me forever, she'll love me no matter what", is it fair to say that that man probably doesnt really love his wife?
In the same way, if the sole reason we serve God is because we are terrified of the idea of eternal punishments, is it fair to say that we dont genuinely love God at all? In that case, we would only be serving God out of fear...fear of punishment or abandonment, not out of love or willful obedience. The same can be said if we serve God only because of the reward of an eternal paradise, except that its not out of fear that we would be serving God, but out of lust for the reward itself. Its kind of like a dog standing on his hind legs at command, simply because he knows his master will give him a doggie treat for it. The dog probably doesnt do it out of love for the master, but rather a love for the taste of bacon-flavored bites.
Because of Jesus, all of the worlds offenses have been forgiven (1 john 2:2) and we are now under grace, not a system of rules in which we have to perform. But just because God loves us no matter what we do, doesn't mean we should just "party it up" and sin our lives away. I have never endorsed that view, nor do the scriptures appear to.
In fact, Paul talked about that very thing in Romans 6:15-17,
What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means![...]
But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed.
Paul makes it a point to say that our obedience is from the heart, thusly I think that is the real underlining reason to serve God...because we want to do so, from the bottom of our hearts.
Another common question along the same lines is,
So whats the point in spreading the gospel, if everyone is just going to be saved anyway?
I think the first point to make here is that Jesus tells us to "go and make disciples of all the nations"(Matthew 28:19), so apparently God wants us to be apart of his truth-revealing process to the world. Secondly, but perhaps of equal importance, is the fact that it doesn't take a PhD to see that we live in a very broken world, in need of the knowledge that God loves them and died for their sins. All throughout the Gospels, Jesus's compassion for the lost was evident, Matthew 9:36-38 is a good example,
When he saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepard. Then He said, "The harvest is truly plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord to send out laborers into His harvest".
Christ made "the harvest" possible through His blood shed, so as followers of Him (of which His spirit lives inside) we should be laboring in His name, and in the same vein of compassion He had for people. We shouldn't let people suffer their whole lifes, and through whatever "hell" is, before having a joyful and fulfilling relationship with Jesus. God revealed His goodness and grace to us, so why wouldn't we want to share that with others so that they too can experience it? The notion of Hell not being eternal, and being for a good and remedial purpose...doesn't discredit our faith, or our reason to share it. If anything, it should allow us to truly lay our hopes in Him...that its not up to us to save people, or always live perfect lives. God loves us no matter what and has a good purpose for us from now, til forever.
That's good news I feel like sharing, how bout you?