By: Fr. Roy Cimagala
ONE burning question many people ask is if God is truly God and knows everything from all eternity, why does he still create a person when he would already know that that person would end up in hell? Does he not predestine that person to hell?
The answer, of course, is a big No. God predestines no one to hell. If one gets to hell, it is because of him rather than because of God who will do everything to save that person. His mercy is forever, but we, with our freedom, can manage to reject that mercy, to reject God definitively.
It may be difficult to imagine that a person can definitively reject God, given our weaknesses, but it is still possible. That’s why there is hell, as revealed in the gospel. Hell is not just a literary device to scare us and to pressure us to behave well.
It’s purely God’s love, his goodness, his desire to share what he has with us that makes him create all of us irrespective of whether we reciprocate his love or not. To be sure, God loses nothing if we choose to lose ourselves from him. We are just being given a chance to be with Him for eternity, with his help.
But God will continue to love everyone. As St. Paul would put it, God “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1Tim 2,4) He loves everyone, including those in hell. In a manner of speaking, he cannot help but love everyone because he is love himself. (cfr. 1 Jn 4,8)
And since we are supposed to be the image and likeness of God, we are supposed to reflect and assume that same attitude toward everybody else. We need to love everyone, including our enemies as Christ himself told us, because God loves everyone.
This can mean many things in practical terms. It can mean, for example, that we have to be understanding of everyone, always charitable, quick to forgive, willing to suffer and even to die for the others. It can mean that we should not be judgmental and that we try to find excuses for the defects and mistakes of others. And more than condemning others for their mistakes, our attitude should be to help them.
When we are humbled by others and even offended, we should avoid fighting back, imitating the example of Christ who, according to St. Peter, “did not retaliate when they heaped abuse on him. He made no threats when he was made to suffer, but entrusted himself to the One who judges justly.” (1 Pt 2,23)
Given our human condition, wounded by sin, we really would need to train ourselves thoroughly to acquire this attitude and spirit of God especially toward those who not only do not reciprocate our love but also who contradict and offend us.
Of course, we would depend first of all on the grace of God which is actually given to us abundantly. Just the same, we have to ask for that grace and correspond to it as faithfully and generously as possible, so we can have the same spirit as Christ, as God wants us to have.
Toward this end, we have to learn to suffer, even to the extent of suffering the way Christ suffered and died to achieve our salvation. We should not be afraid to go through some extreme sufferings, because a lot of blessings can definitely come to us. God cannot be outdone in generosity. If we are generous with him, he will be much more generous with us.
God’s love is such that he is willing to suffer and die for us as shown by Christ. That is how we should be, how our love for others should be. If God predestines no one to hell, neither should we condemn anyone definitively.
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