It was a simple assignment. I was asked to substitute teach a class of 10 and 11 year old girls for the summer vacation
Sundays. No big deal, right?
Here I was a member in good standing. A regular attender, choir member, professional women’s
Bible study leader and all around good guy, well gal actually. Teaching a class of six or seven girls during summer vacation
months should have been no big deal.
It was a typical Sunday school format. The denomination was protestant. The lessons
were Biblically based. What could go wrong?
The first Sunday our lesson was obedience to God’s commands. Abraham
was the topic and his obedience to sacrifice Isaac was the object lesson. Even the coloring pages and memory verse were fairly
vanilla, absolutely nothing to worry about.
Then I made my mistake. I just love to hear what others think. I opened
the floor up for discussion about the lesson to make sure they had understood the concept. Actually we had 15 more minutes
before class was to be over and I didn’t have any more activities prepared.
I should have asked what their summer
plans were…but no…I wanted to stick to the lesson. That’s when it happened.
“Ms. Lissa, what
happens to people who never obey God?”
Never wanting to control a discussion that has potential for learning
moments… I opened my big, fat mouth and said, “Well, girls, does anyone want to answer her question?”
silence. Not a single word. They all looked around the room as if the answers were going to magically “puff” out
of thin air in the form of cartoon bubbles above their heads that they could read thus proving themselves highly intelligent.
No bubbles appeared. Perplexity knitted their foreheads. They began to fidget.
“Does anyone have a guess?”
More awkward silence. Eyes began boring holes through the coloring sheets. One brave soul piped up.
Ms. Lissa, what does happen?”
Interesting ploy…reverse the question, take the pressure off of them. I scanned
the crowd one more time. No takers.
“People who never obey God, will be eternally separated from Him to a place
called H-e-l-l,” I somberly announced. And before I could continue and explain what that meant…
Lissa! You said a curse word…in church!”
“I’m gonna tell my mom!”
are you gonna be in trouble!”
Okay…what just happened here? I thought I was in a mainline denominational
church with kids whose parents read the Bible and for the most part literally believed it. Are these kids telling me they’ve
never heard of the word h-e-l-l except in the connotation of profanity?
“Girls,” I smiled taking my time,
“That was a good one! Teasing me like that!”
Stunned, they shot horrified glares back and forth between
each other and daggers knifed back at me. Had I flipped out? Had I actually used profanity in the Lord’s house and then
joked about it!
Two of the girls got out of their chairs, asked to be excused and left to find their parents.
I’m sitting in a room with four girls whose faces resembled those of horrified hostages. They all shuffled their chairs
closer together for protection. I was at a loss as to what to do. I was awfully glad I wore a strong antiperspirant…except
I didn’t think to rub it on my forehead that morning. I could feel cold sweat beading at my hairline.
deeply, gritted a smile and began, “So, you’ve never heard the “H” word used except as an explicative?”
four heads immediately nodded back and forth as if their lives would be spared if I wasn’t angered any further. Obviously
they had seen their share of hostage negotiations on television and knew it was in their best interest to keep my appeased.
I stammered, “no wondered you were a little shocked when I said it.”
For the remaining ten minutes of class
I tried to explain what the Bible said about the “H” word. I showed them a few key verses to assure them I was
not making up this concept. Good thing we weren’t talking about donkeys and animal excrements that morning! This group
would have fainted dead away.
On one hand I was thrilled that their lives had been sheltered that they had a wholesome
respect for the Lord’s house. On the other hand I was amazed that their parents had not approached the subject with
them. These girls were old enough to be accountable. They were mature enough to begin making their eternal reservations.
knew all of their parents. They were all solid believers. Several of them were making great personal sacrifices to educate
their daughters in the area’s most expensive Christian academy. Why had the “H” word never come up?
the dismissal bell rang from the church’s steeple, I was confronted by several sets of parents in the hallway. They
were flabbergasted that someone like me could have presented such outlandish and distasteful material in a junior high Sunday
All I could think if they think I’m disgusting, they obviously haven’t been down the hallways
of most junior high schools in our community. Those hallways were literally paved with the directions to that unmentionable
And that was it. I was replaced. I was never allowed to be in a leadership position around the young people
of that church ever again.
What happened really bothered me. Not because I was asked to resign, but because these families
felt the proper usage of the “H” word was something they saw as threatening in the Church. When I asked why, I
was never given an explanation.
My family moved often during my childhood. We were members of various denominations.
I always knew what h-e-l-l was. I first heard the word in Church. I didn’t learn it could be used as profanity until
I was in the sixth grade. One of those life experiences that flash burns on your brain.
But here, in Southern suburban
America, in a mainline Bible-believing denominational church, I could not use the “H” word in its proper context.
I was amazed then and I am still amazed now.
Although it is wrong to just preach “fire insurance salvation,”
it is still part of the truth. It is the reality of the scriptures. It is the ultimate destination of those separated from
God. And if we chose to be in denial about it, are we presenting only a half truth, not the whole truth and nothing but the
truth to the Lost.
I belong to a women’s Bible study group who is currently working through the names of God.
We recently finished the name Adonai. The name Adonai means LORD and Master – as in you do what He says or die!
study emphasized the fact that we must accept Jesus as our LORD and Savior or we are not truly saved and will have no part
in heaven. And granted, I believe that, but I didn’t start out that way. I doubt if most people do.
When I came
to Jesus at the age of seven it was because I wanted to be rescued from an eternity in h-e-l-l. I admit that it was an absolutely
selfish motive, but be honest, who doesn’t first come to Jesus for purely selfish motives?
All of us come to
Him first as a Savior. Lordship follows. It also develops over time. Some people are so radically saved, that they have no
problem relinquishing everything to the Lordship of Jesus. Some of us are slower; we’re more the remedial learner in
the lordship department. We tend to be more hardheaded. We generally think we can help Jesus along.
Okay, I know it
sounds utterly ridiculous to even consider the possibility of “assisting” God in our salvation and submission
to His Lordship…but the Bible does say… “to work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.”
I think I just forgot to read the fear and trembling part. I just got as far as the “work-out” part. Normally
those two words, “work and out” in the same sentence terrify me…I don’t like to sweat! But for some
reason…when it comes to God…I’m an overachiever!
Back on subject…
What has happened
Society has become lost in a sea of political correctness and tolerance. We are so worried about offending
someone, that we will completely ignore deviant behavior until the results of natural consequences are slapping everyone in
the face and then everyone stands around, wringing their hands wondering what went wrong. Our desire to be inoffensive is
so paralyzing that I believe would might run the risk of “not offending” someone straight to h-e-l-l!
worse, if someone does do something terribly wrong, instead of accepting the consequences of their behavior, we all are made
to feel guilty, share the blame, accept their canned apology and all is right with the world again! La-di-dah!
this is not how God looks at wrong? He takes it very seriously. It is so crucial to Him that He sent His Son to make a perfect
sacrifice to atone for sin. And those who do not accept the sacrificial offering that Jesus made will end up in h-e-l-l for
all eternity. That is reality. That is the truth.
If the Church does not believe in h-e-l-l and the reality of it,
how are we going to feel motivated to rescue our friends, families and strangers from its eternal grasps? Why bother? There
are so many other things we can do to occupy our time.
Yes, God is love and love should be the ultimate motivation…but
is that where most of us started? Did most of us obey our parents out of a great deep abiding love for them or out of fear
of punishment? I know where my lessons in obedience started…and I’ve got the splinters to prove it!
Bible tells us the Law is our schoolmaster until we are mature. When we mature our motivation is love because we understand
the power of God’s grace. But if you are lost, does God’s love motivate you to obey? If God’s love is all
you ever hear about, doesn’t it stand to reason that a loving and gracious God would never send anyone to a big bad
ugly place like h-e-l-l? Why no! A sweet loving lil’ ole God would never do that to anyone, now would He? Tisk-tisk!
Book of Jude tells us in verses 22 and 23, “Have mercy on some who doubt; save others by snatching [them] from the fire;
on others have mercy in fear, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh.”
Some will be won by love. Some may
need other motivation.
So what is it to be? Does the Church take back the “H” word and return it to its
rightful place in God’s vocabulary or does the world continue to shanghai it? You be the judge. Was I wrong in bringing
up the “H” word that morning?
© 9/7/04 Lissa M. Lee