Change the Way You Compare

We don’t usually think we’re evil people. You and I don’t tend to feel we’ve done anything outrageous. It may be that we’ve said some mean things to our siblings, but by the end of the day, we remind them that we love them. And while we may have failed to keep some promises, we did drive ourselves to exhaustion trying.

This is a really common argument. I was struck by it once again when I read a message online. Someone said something to the extent that if hell exists, it is reserved only for truly evil people. As I read it, it seemed to me like the emphasis was on the unspoken “not you and me.”

This mindset that you and I are essentially good – that we don’t deserve anything so severe as eternal punishment in hell – comes from comparing ourselves to each other.

On the scale of human virtue, we are so far above Hitler, terrorists, and human traffickers that “comparing” hardly seems like the right term. It’s a no-brainer; of course we’re good! We’re practically innocent!

0111-change-the-way-you-compare

And yet, I think there’s at least one major flaw in that sort of reasoning.

If I was inclined to title my post as long and complicated as I wanted, I might have called it: “Don’t stop comparing yourself, just change the way you do it.”

See, I believe there is a standard against which we ought to compare ourselves because I believe there is a standard against which God will judge us one day. How we measure up to that standard will determine our ultimate destiny: heaven or hell – God’s presence or eternal damnation.

When God judge’s you, he won’t compare you to Hitler. He will compare you to Himself, infinitely Holy. Suddenly, you don’t seem so innocent anymore. Just as 100 is as far away from infinity as 1 is, so a single hateful thought is as far away from infinitely Holy as is the massacre of millions.

Is there hope for anyone then?

Why even try if we’ve already failed?

Some of you are probably anticipating the answer: Jesus.

When a soul trusts in Jesus for their salvation – when they believe in his death and resurrection, when they bow to him as their Savior and Lord – it is not that God forgets their sins or His standard of judgment. Rather, He looks at the punishment He poured out on Jesus 2000 years ago, and accredits that punishment to the trusting soul. Then, it is finished. The sins have still been committed, but so has the due punishment been paid.

Welcome, dear ransomed soul, into eternal life.

Would you discuss with me?

  • What is your experience with the mindset that regular people like you and me are essentially good and don’t deserve Hell? Have you ever believed it? Do you still believe it now? Do you know others who believe it?
  • How is this way of thinking a stumbling block that hinders people from salvation? (Or would you argue that it isn’t a stumbling block?)
  • How can we sensitively and graciously speak truth into these people’s lives?

PS –

I know, I know. If I have any concern at all for the series I’ve started, I had better write another post about vulnerability. This topic of comparison is simply weighing heavier on my mind and heart right now; I thought it would be a more sincere post.

PPS –

If you’re wondering how I’m doing after last week’s desperate post, first of all, thank you for your concern. Right in line with God’s gracious character, He has brought me back to a state of normalcy.


 

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17 thoughts on “Change the Way You Compare

  1. •What is your experience with the mindset that regular people like you and me are essentially good and don’t deserve Hell? Have you ever believed it? Do you still believe it now? Do you know others who believe it?:

    That’s a bunch of balderdash! I don’t believe that anyone could ever get to Heaven (or anywhere else but Hell) without belief in Jesus Christ. We’re all sinners, no matter what, and we all need Jesus to get use to heaven. But yes, I definitely don’t believe I’m good – even essentially – or that anyone else is, except through Jesus, etc.

    I don’t have a lot of experience with this way of thinking, honestly. I’ve met people who think Hell doesn’t exist (or that it’s not really Hell but rather a place away from God), but I haven’t met anyone who thinks Hell is only for ‘bad’ people. Maybe I’m just sheltered, though.

    •How is this way of thinking a stumbling block that hinders people from salvation? (Or would you argue that it isn’t a stumbling block?):

    Yes, I do. If people think they’re already “good,” then they don’t need Jesus to save them.

    •How can we sensitively and graciously speak truth into these people’s lives?:

    I don’t really know. I suppose we should gently point to Bible verses and such that have these truths in them, but … I don’t really know how to do that kind of thing without being abrasive.

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    1. Balderdash – I actually looked it up to see if it is a real word and had my vocabulary expanded today. 😉 (Is it a historical thing that you uncovered in the trenches of book research?)

      But yes, I agree that it’s senseless talk, though I see that people would compare themselves to others if they don’t already believe in God. In that case, it could be a bit of a vicious cycle: they don’t believe hell is for the average person because they don’t believe in God (or at least they don’t believe in Him as He talks about Himself in the Bible), and they don’t see a need to believe in Him because they don’t believe that Hell is for them and people like them. :/

      Oh Kellyn, me too. Or rather, I don’t know how to do it without *seeming* abrasive because even if I do genuinely feel for that person, how can I get that across while pointing to Bible verses explaining that their good deeds don’t cut it? And what if they don’t esteem the Bible as the Word of God in the first place? What a mixed-up world this is with its host of twisted-truths which are no longer truths at all. :/

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      1. Balderdash is … just a word that’s always been in my vocabulary! I had no idea other people didn’t know it. 😉 I guess I do watch a lot of old movies and such … so maybe I heard it there.

        Yes, it’s so hard! I have no idea how I’d do it. Especially in person. At least when talking with people online I have time to think (or even look something up) before I can reply. In person, it would be so hard!

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      2. Oh, well there you go. Balderdash…

        And true! There seems to be more liberty in online conversation, which in turn tends to make me feel more confident. One thing that I’ve been trying recently (now that I come to think of it) is being more analytical of arguments I’ve grown up hearing (ie. mentioning where I heard them and how I personally feel about them) and being more honest when I just don’t know (ie. I might go ahead and look something up, I just transparently let them know that’s what I’ve done). Though I can’t get inside the other person’s head, I imagine it must make me seem more human and less like I’m setting myself up as judge over them. Honestly, it makes me feel more human just within myself.

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      3. It’s kind of like malarkey. 😉

        That’s good. I try to do something like that, too, although I don’t really think I succeed. I’m sure I often come off as “I know better than you” or something like that!

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      4. Aw, yes, phoney baloney. 😉 Malarkey is Irish, so … yep. I think I mostly know it because I really like the idea of being Irish. My (actual) last name is Irish … Roth is like English though … or something like that … Ohh, wait! It’s English, German, or Jewish. So … maybe that’s where my grandma got that whole thing about us being Jewish … huh! Go figure …

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      5. I really do! The most fun, though, is talking about all the history of our family in this area. One of my grandparents (great-great or something like that) came over on the Oregon trail, and I live on the same land we’ve owned since 1953 … it’s really cool. My great-grandpa was a fire chief, and everyone really respect him, it appears. I’m working at a historical site, and everyone knows of him!

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  2. What is your experience with the mindset that regular people like you and me are essentially good and don’t deserve Hell? Have you ever believed it? Do you still believe it now? Do you know others who believe it?

    I don’t know… I don’t believe that that anyone can deserve heaven, and there are specific things that must be done to accomplish eternal life. We can’t do it on our own, and we need Jesus. That being said, I think it’s also important to remember that we can’t necessarily expect perfection from ourselves right at this moment. We’re all still learning and growing. I think the important thing is that we’re still trying. If we’re trying to become better, if we’re trying to follow God & Jesus Christ, if we’re repenting, if we are keeping the commandments…then we are on the right track. Of course we have to keep trying…but we also need to appreciate that we have been trying.

    (Additionally, the LDS church has a rather different view on heaven/hell and the afterlife, but I dunno if it necessarily relates to this specific discussion.)

    How is this way of thinking a stumbling block that hinders people from salvation? (Or would you argue that it isn’t a stumbling block?)

    Well, obviously, believing that you “deserve heaven” will most likely lead to thinking that improvement is not needed. It takes away from the wonder and majesty of Christ’s atoning sacrifice. But, as I said before, leaning too far that way in thinking that maybe you can never actually get to heaven because of what you’ve done wrong, can also be a stumbling block that Satan uses.

    How can we sensitively and graciously speak truth into these people’s lives?

    Ooh, that’s a hard question. I…generally think that I’m always right, so I’m not always the best at this… I think probably the best thing to do is to love that person. If you can do that, and they can feel your love, and you’re doing it because of your love, then they’re more likely to take it in a gracious way (even if they don’t agree).

    And good, I’m glad that this week has been better for you! God is wonderful. 🙂

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    1. Agreed. I don’t believe that anyone can deserve heaven, either. I also agree that there are certain things that need to be done for us to inherit eternal life. But I also believe that it’s already been done. The one “work” that needed to be done was Jesus’ atoning sacrifice and it has been done, once and for all. That said, we are saved through the means of faith, so if you count that as something we do, then yes, I suppose there is a work on our end. But I’ve heard one preacher say (and this really resounded with me) that faith is the anti-work. It’s the one thing that is the complete opposite to works because it’s admitting that our own works are insufficient to save us and trusting in the work that Jesus did for us so many years ago. So I would agree with you that we can’t do it (inherit heaven) on our own, but I would also go a step further and say that it’s not our works, aided by Jesus, but his work all the way. (Wow, that thought exploded!) For the rest of that paragraph of yours, I think I would say agreed, agreed and agreed.

      Sooo… what are the LDS church’s beliefs regarding heaven, hell, and the afterlife?

      Again, I second what you said that believing that one deserves heaven leads to thinking improvement is not needed. Again, I would go a step further and say that it leads to thinking *salvation* is not necessary. Imagine that! – living your entire life completely oblivious that you’re destined for eternal punishment! Imagine the shock when you reach judgment day! Though I suppose if you believe differently about heaven, hell, and the end of the earth, you may not agree that unransomed souls all go to hell? And yes, when one of Satan’s tactics doesn’t work for a particular person, it seems he’s just as pleased to attack using the opposite extreme. I don’t think he cares how he deceives a soul, only whether or not it is deceived.

      I love your final thought. Back to Christianity 101: love. The basis of the first and second most important commands to which all the laws and prophets hold. Love.

      He *is* wonderful! 🙂 May He be praised.

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