But when he came to his senses, he said, “How many of my father’s hired men have more than enough bread, but I am dying here with hunger! I will get up and go to my father, and will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me as one of your hired men.’ “ So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” But the father said to his slaves, “Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet; and bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.” And they began to celebrate. (Luke 15:17-24)

At times the conditions produced by our situations have a sobering, chilling effect on us. Like the believers at Pentecost (Acts 2:37), we realize we made horrible mistakes, we wish to flee our circumstances, but we have no idea of what to do. Or, like the young man above, we know what we have done, we know what we deserve, and we have no idea of the reception we should anticipate. In fear, we look for answers, or we decide to redirect our lives by heading in the correct direction.

Fearfully fleeing from the consequences of bad choices is a legitimate reason for redirecting our lives toward God. We can get ourselves into some horrible messes by doing what we consider to be wise. I have yet to meet an older person who does not shake his head in disbelief at the stupid things he did as a younger person! Is it not amazing to consider the stupid things we did then that we were convinced were wonderful things to do? Often we thought acts of rebellion against God were a good idea! When we realized what we did, it was gut-wrenching to realize how stupid we were!

At some point the Christian must stop running from hell in fear and start running toward God in appreciation. The epistles (written to individual Christians and congregations) contain many charges based on “this is what you were, this is who you are, and this is what God has done for you.” Consider Ephesians 2:1-10.

At some point the person must understand what God of Himself achieved in Jesus’ willing death and trusting resurrection. At some point the words forgiveness, sanctification, redemption, and righteousness in Christ through the working of God must become more than mere words. Consider amazing scriptures such as Romans 3:21-30, 1 Corinthians 1:30, 2 Corinthians 5:20-21, and 1 Peter 2:21-25.

When we begin to grasp the magnitude of God’s love for us, we begin running toward God which involves much more than running away from hell. We flee from hell by “not doing.” We run toward God by “being.” Running from hell over a long period of time typically results in a void. Running to God over a long period of time typically results in a fullness, a meaning, a joy, and a peace that places faith in God’s goodness, not the goodness of self. Are you running away from hell or toward God?

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Bulletin Article, 21 August 2008

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