Bad People Go to Hell, Right? RIGHT? (Part One)

Something inside us wants the bad guy to get his (or her) comeuppance.

Movies with complex characters and twisting plots hold me firmly in their grasp; I'll muse over them for hours, picking apart motivations and symbolism. I love it when the main character is complex: both good, and bad. This may well be a genetic younger son wrote a report on Fidel Castro and posed the question, "Was he a bad man who did some good things, or was he a good man who did some bad things?" Don't laugh. It's a fair question, even for El Presidente.

Can we agree that each of us has a portion inside that wants to be good, kind, loving? The pastor of the church we attend spoke about this a while back. He suggested that if we get figuratively "squeezed" hard enough, our true nature will come out, and that our true nature isn't necessarily good. 

Think about that for a moment.

In this purely hypothetical scenario (wink!), imagine that I'm driving along at a reasonable speed, using my blinker, and trying to politely merge to the right lane so that I can exit the highway. Though my car is well ahead of hers, the driver in that lane thinks I really should tuck in behind her, not in front of her, so she speeds up thus reducing the gap. My sweet, naive blinker clicking away, I accelerate to fit into the diminishing gap. But now I'm a little annoyed. I merge, no longer quite so polite.

Here's where I get squeezed. And if you guessed this wasn't hypothetical, you're correct.

At the stop sign marking the end of the exit, she pulls in behind me and lays on her horn. Not a modern-day Morse code "beeeep" that offers a benign, "Jerk!" Instead, a malicious "beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee........." never-ending tone, embarrassing me, worrying my kids, and distracting other drivers. Squeeze.

But I'm cool, dude. I shake my head, feeling like The Bigger Person. My kids impress (horrify) me with their lip-reading skills translating her mouthed cuss words with ease. Added bonus: She's giving them the finger. They ask if they can return it.  

"No, you may not! We're nice people who are taking the high ground," I admonish from my high ground.

"...eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep!!!" The woman is going berserk. Squeeze.

Finally, it's my turn at the stop sign, and I make my turn. She follows. Each time I  yield for other drivers at intersections, the horn blares. My kids are now genuinely alarmed. Squeeze.

The harassment continues for a few more blocks. This gal is stalking me, horn blaring as I make turn, after turn, after turn. I was wondering how I would get my kids to school safely. I certainly didn't want this nut case to see where I was dropping them. That was the final squeeze that revealed what's inside of me.

Hoping to look menacing, I come to a stop, rolled down the window, and screamed something that sounds a lot like "Shut the DUCK up!" But that was only the threshold of my finest hour.

My meandering path had taken me past several turns that led to her home. (Don't ask how I know where she lives. I have my tricky ways.) 

Depleted of side streets as potential escapes, I pulled did she. Conveniently, her passenger-side window was down, which I immediately lunged through, finger-jabbing, purple-faced, and spittle-spitting, letting fly with the most vile string of cuss words one could ever, ever imagine. She gaped at me, wide-eyed, realizing my crazy would beat her crazy any day of the week. She meekly (oh sure, now she's meek) protested that I had cut her off. The "f" word was positively Victorian compared to my subsequent tirade, and she got the "beeeeeep" out of there. And fast.

I ask you this: Am I a good person who does bad things, or a bad person who does good things? Maybe I got some points for enduring the honking so long, and maybe a few more for not punching her, but...I was still sinning by God's definition. I was wrong, and I knew it. And my kids saw it, too. A Mom-of-The-Year award is surely in the mail.

Who among us is fit to judge
whether we are good, or bad?

My inner defense attorney argues that I had feared for my children's safety and was justified in my response. He adds that I volunteer in a fire tower, at our kids' school, buy lunch for homeless people, donate to the local animal shelter, etc. He builds a solid case on the good things I've done, conveniently leaving out the bad. The conclusion he's asking the jury to make? Honking-Road-Rage-Rhonda was a menace to a fine, upstanding member of society. I'm an innocent victim here. inner prosecutor rebuts this argument. Rhonda, cautious by nature, feared for her well-being was just trying to stay safe as my car barreled toward hers. She had just come off her a 12-hour shift in the E.R. - a job that has exposed her to horrific injuries caused by  reckless lane changes such as mine! (Yeah, really she was a nurse. We live in a small town.) The conclusion the prosecutor wants the jury to make? Rhonda is innocent, and I should be locked up for life.

Do you see what I see? Perhaps we each have the defense attorney, and prosecutor, making arguments in our minds about how good a person we are. And, we have even appointed our own inner judge, whom we empower to present a verdict regarding our behavior. 

Therein lies the problem, right? If I appoint my own judge, his verdict will certainly be biased.

For our inner judge to give us a positive verdict, we only have to make a compelling enough case. One way in which we do that is to diligently search for others' faults so that we can say, "At least I'm not like that guy," with a nervous laugh. Admit it.

You don't believe me? Get pulled over for speeding and watch how quickly you revert to justifying our driving speed with law enforcement:  I was going with the flow of traffic, Officer. Did you see the guy who blew past me a moment ago? Why aren't you busy chasing down real criminals?

Neither I, nor the other lady,
set out that day knowing
this would be our soundtrack.

Let's not kid ourselves. Our inner judge will never have an unbiased opinion of our worth. God is the only One who looks at us all with perfect and holy love, and is, therefore, the only One fit to judge anyone. It hurt Him to see me and this honking lady, two of his beautiful creations, locked in such destructive anger with each other.

Maybe she hurt God that day, but so did I.

Did you catch that? I just admitted to you that the other driver was one of God's beautiful creations. That's important. And for God, as with any good parent, no matter who is right or wrong He doesn't want His children to hurt each other.

Sure, you might say, the nurse might actually be a nice person. You might be, too. But what about a monster like Adolf Hitler? Certainly a person like that has to burn in fiery hell, right? RIGHT?

That's Part Two of this post. I've said enough for one day.


  1. thank you, Julie... we have all sinned, we are all guilty; our definition of good has very little to do with a holy Gods eternal standards; God has given us the 10 commandments and they are a moral mirror to show us our sin; they both open my eyes and shut my mouth. there is none righteous, we are separated from a holy God, and yet He gave of His Son to take our penalty that we owe...He came and demonstrated love, He willingly gave his life for us...what Grace! what mercy! thank you for sharing this Julie, you have a beautiful talent for writing!

  2. In my life, it's been a very slow transition from being mad/angry at others, to feeling sad for others, to feeling sad for myself. The latter seems to expose the most shortcomings. Thank you Jesus!


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