Scare the hell out of you?

by Larry Hehn on January 8, 2012

scare“Compassion will cure more sins than condemnation.” – Henry Ward Beecher

While driving through town a few years ago, I was surprised to see the sign in front of All Peoples Church. So surprised that I went home, grabbed my camera and drove back to take a picture.

Not many would be able to drive by the church and miss their sign’s big, bold message:

READ THE BIBLE.
IT WILL SCARE THE HELL
OUT OF YOU

I suppose I could have called the church and asked them why they posted that sign. I could have chosen to be offended. I could have chosen to dismiss it as nothing more than a well-intended play on words.

If nothing else, it certainly got me thinking.

I thought of the fellow “Christians” who told an acquaintance that some friends of hers who are homosexual are going to burn in hell, and wondered whether that helped her friends get any closer to God. While I don’t endorse their lifestyle, I have no right to judge them or condemn them to hell when I am just as deserving of such a fate.

Sin is sin, and we are all guilty.

I thought of my past failures, some quite big and ugly, and how some “Christians” met me with condemnation, and some with compassion.

I know where I felt the presence of God the most.

I don’t doubt that there is a hell, and that it is a place that we all should avoid. However, I do believe that there is a big difference between “going to heaven” and “avoiding hell”.

And while I can never claim to fully comprehend God and His character, what I’ve read in the Bible has convinced me that, rather than dangle me over hell as a threat, He would prefer to welcome me with love and compassion, and offer heaven as an exciting alternative.

The Lord is merciful and compassionate, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. – Psalm 145:8

Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you. – Ephesians 4:32

“…And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him. His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. But his father said to the servants, ‘Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast, for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the party began.” – Luke 15:20-22

No, reading my Bible doesn’t scare the hell out of me. But it does help me to desire heaven more.

What do you think of the message on that sign?

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Mark Prasek January 9, 2012 at 12:10 am

I’m OK with the sign. What I am not OK with is the position that discerning good from evil is “judging” or “condemning” in a negative sense. To say that homosexuality or any other sin is wrong – is right. I agree with you in saying that it is wrong to take the position that someone else’s sin is somehow worse than my own. However, as Christians, we should stand firm against sin – including our own. Yes, I sin. But I do not think, let alone say, that it’s “OK” – just forgiven. That does not consititute a license for habitual sin. I think we should place equal emphasis on God’s grace and mercy. Not rely soley on “scare tactics”.

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Larry Hehn January 9, 2012 at 11:23 pm

Thanks for sharing, Mark!

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Suzanne January 9, 2012 at 12:26 am

I like what you said, “it helps me to desire heaven more.” I’m not into scare tactics. We certainly need to tell people the truth, but the beauty of the gospel drives out fear for those who believe. Church signs can be interesting!

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Larry Hehn January 9, 2012 at 11:25 pm

A few months ago I saw a coffee table book with nothing but photos of church signs in it. Interesting indeed!

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Shelley January 9, 2012 at 12:52 am

Before I became a Christian (I had grown up going to Sunday school and church, but never really asked Jesus into my heart, so I consider myself becoming a Christian back in late 1999), I used to drive past a particular church in my city back home in New Brunswick (I’m now in British Columbia) at least once a week – all because of the sign they had out front with messages on it. Once I started attending that church I told them that part of the reason was God leading me there, and the other was because of the sign. They never put scare tactics on it – just good, honest messages – things like, “God prefers knee-mail: (or something like that), and 1 cross + 3 nails = 4given.

Signs in front of churchs are good tools to use in drawing others to Christ (like it did with me), so it’s important to be wise in what is said on them. I’m sure that church you refer to didn’t have bad intentions when they posted that message…but, still, I would rather have read a more “positive” message.
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Larry Hehn January 9, 2012 at 11:35 pm

I’m with you, Shelley. Sometimes things that we may consider benign and clever, may be received as harsh to others. Just as your experience shows, we should not take the messages on our church signs lightly, even when they’re meant to be!

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Rob January 9, 2012 at 6:19 am

I’m not a big fan of church signs in general. I saw one that said “you think it’s hot here?” The main thing the signs miss is that they are public signs but written in Christian-ese. In my opinion the signs should show the world how we are different by our love.
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Larry Hehn January 9, 2012 at 11:36 pm

Well said, Rob!

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Carol Rives January 9, 2012 at 11:36 am

Obviously, that sign is a play on words with several different meanings. I like to look at it in this manner ~ we ALL have a little “hell” in us, and by that I mean sin; face it, we’re all human. I’m not so convinced that just reading or talking the Bible will make that sin go away, but if one chooses to behave in a more caring and compassionate manner ~ that just might help a bit.

Actions always speak louder than words!
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Larry Hehn January 9, 2012 at 11:37 pm

You got it, Carol!

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Kevin Martineau January 9, 2012 at 6:12 pm

I’ve always wanted to have a church sign where I could put up pithy quotes and sayings.

It is a good thing I don’t! 😉
Kevin Martineau recently posted..A life changing resolutionMy Profile

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Larry Hehn January 9, 2012 at 11:38 pm

I have a site for you, Kevin:
http://www.says-it.com/churchsigns/
Enjoy!

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