A recent sermon had addressed Jesus’ admonition to amputate even apparently indispensable body parts in order to enter life and the kingdom rather then go to hell with an intact physique (Mark 9:42-50). We were discussing in Small Group an illustration from the sermon: that all our cultural expressions and figures of speech regarding hell reveal a universal awareness of retribution and contain kernels of truth about the awful reality of hell.
For instance, even the atheist and God-denier will — when angry enough — tell his enemy to “go to hell,” revealing the thought that that person who has wronged him is so bad that the only appropriate punishment is eternity in perdition.
One of our group members — an international student — described his difficulty in understanding American “curses” such as “go to hell.” A friend had given him a crash course in those American insults that he should be aware of, and she asked him if he were offended about that particular insult.
“No! I’m happy!”
We were, of course, shocked to hear him say this, largely because in the South such a request is usually met with fisticuffs and challenges to parentage (this describes the deacons’ meeting; finance committees are more violent).
“When someone tells me to ‘go to hell’, I am happy, because I am not going there!” he explained. “And I tell them that though I may be worthy of hell, Jesus Christ has saved me from it, and once I have told them why I am not going to hell, I can ask them about where they are going.”
We enjoyed a good belly laugh at the picture of one demanding “go to hell!” while the other responds “no, I am not going there.” But there is no doubt that we had been schooled in how a believer takes every opportunity — even personal insult — to speak truth.