A Baptist pastor says Christians must continue taking to their love ones about Hell, especially those who reject Christianity, but then to also back off and give them space.
Aaron Menikoff, an author and senior pastor of Mt. Vernon Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia, wrote on The Gospel Coalition website Monday that when one wrestles “with the persistent unbelief of family and friends,” there will be times when Satan will ask, “Did God really say there is such a thing as Hell?”
“Don’t tolerate this line of thinking. The doctrine of Hell is tempting to abandon yet crucial to embrace,” he advised.
“God used the doctrine of Hell to save me. When I first heard the Gospel from a high school friend, I pushed back. She pushed back even harder and said unless I repented of my sins and put my faith in Christ, I’d go to Hell,” the pastor recalled.
“I couldn’t believe she said this, much less believed it. Thankfully the Holy Spirit used her conviction and boldness to open my eyes. Months later, I trusted in Christ.”
Menikoff also said that believers should avoid “leaning into the ethical teaching of Jesus while dismissing His teaching on eternal punishment.”
“Christ is not just the Savior; He is the Judge. Please don’t abandon good theology because you don’t like the implications. We are either a people of the Book or a people of our own inclinations. There is no in-between,” he continued.
When it comes to reaching out to nonbelieving loved ones, the pastor suggested that Christians should continue praying and grieving for them, but when they are confident that they have shared the Gospel, they can back off.
“They know where you stand. They know where you think they stand. It’s time to be quiet and pray,” he wrote.
“Backing off your family member doesn’t mean ignoring or cutting them out of your life. Rather, it means spending time with them without constantly discussing their spiritual state.”
The pastor suggested four things Christians can do in such cases, namely to pray for loved-ones regularly; to never hide their own faith; to express affection and remember birthdays and anniversaries; and to give them space.
Later on, he said that believers need to trust God with unbelieving family and friends.
“Ultimately, the only way to have peace in the face of loved ones who reject Christ is to marvel at the grace of God who, in Christ, accepts us,” he concluded.
“God saved us when we were dead in our sins, and he can surely save our loved ones with the same power that raised Jesus from the dead. It would be no less a miracle for him to save them than it was to save us.”
Some Christian leaders have pushed back against the belief in Hell, however.
Arkansas Pastor Timothy Rogers drew flak after a video of him declaring that Hell is a “fairytale” and no different than Santa Claus was made public in June.
The 38-year-old pastor of Prince of Peace Church in Blytheville preached at the funeral of a young man where he said: “Is he (the young man who died) going to Hell? Did he accept Jesus as his …?’ See, y’all have been sold a lie. You’ve been bamboozled. All that stuff is a fairytale. To believe in Hell means you have to believe in Santa Claus. I don’t care how you cut [it]. Hell is an imaginary place. And I was told that if anything that does not have an explanation must be imagination.”
He went on to describe Hell as being on Earth, saying, “Hell is what you create.” He added, “When you’re dead, you’re done.”