In a TV interview, Sherri Shepherd from The View revealed that she believes LGBT people are going to hell. Her interview reminded me of the most important lesson I’ve learned in life so far.
As humans, everything we do is a response out of two things… fear and love. Every choice we make derives from these two emotions.
The thing which hinders us from fulfilling our New Year resolution to be healthy is fear. The decision to not forgive a friend or family member comes from a place of fear. When we don’t fulfill our career goals or even create goals it’s because we are allowing fear to control us. However, operating in love will inform you to forgive the friend or family member. Love for yourself will compel you to keep your resolution. Love will motivate you to achieve your goals.
My journey of letting go of fear started when I stopped fearing hell.
For me, growing up in a very religious home, the fear of hell was deeply instilled in me. I remember the countless sermons that ended with, “If you left here tonight, died in a car accident, where would you spend eternity?” If I wasn’t sure, I would be one of the first to raise my hand to be saved. Jesus was my way out of hell. However, love didn’t lead me to Jesus, it was fear. However, the Jesus that fear led me to was a counterfeit Jesus.
While I was on the 2008 Equality Ride, I was confronted with the same question from hundreds of students and community members opposed to our message of LGBT inclusion. Everyday I was asked, “Aren’t you afraid of going to hell?”
After I was asked this question at an Assemblies of God school in Texas I came to a conclusion. I decided that I would not let fear control my life or inform my decisions anymore. After choosing to not let fear inform my decisions, when I was asked again, “Aren’t you afraid of going to hell?” My answer became a solid and resounding, “No.” My reason being is this, if I choose to accept Christ as my savior because I don’t want to go to hell but heaven instead then I have only accepted Christ out of fear because I want to save myself.
So, no, I am not afraid of going to hell. That question exposes the selfishness and fear which has come to be the very foundation for so many who call themselves a Christian. A relationship based on fear and selfishness will never last.
I believe this to be the main contributor to so many ignorant, angry, and religious Christians. They have not yet fallen in love with Jesus. They have not allowed love to be the foundation of their relationship with him. At the end of the day, Jesus is not their loving Savior, rather, he is their ticket out of eternal torture.
I do not choose to be in a relationship with Jesus because I don’t want to go to hell. I choose to be in a relationship with Christ because his compelling message of love and forgiveness has saved me and healed my many wounds. I choose to follow Christ not because of my fear of hell but because his radical and endless grace sets me free.
This is why I pursue Christ. This is why I walk with Christ. Heaven is not my goal and hell is not my fear. To know and love Christ and share that with others in this life is my purpose and goal.
So, here is life’s most important lesson (according to me)… Begin to recognize when fear informs your decisions. When you start becoming aware of when and how fear informs your decisions, ask yourself, “What would love do?” When you have your answer, do what love would do instead.
Don’t allow fear to control you.
Forgive when you think you can’t.
Exercise when you think you’re exhausted.
Pursue your goals like it’s a race for your life.
Don’t let fear win.
I would like to note, I do not believe a literal hell exist. That can be a post for another time though.
AZARIAH SOUTHWORTH is a blogger, writer, public speaker, podcastor, and was Instinct Magazine’s Leading Man of 2008. He writes on issues of faith, sexuality and forgiveness, and lives in Las Vegas, Nevada. Follow him on his blog, AzariahSpeaks, his website, on Facebook, and on Twitter.