I recently watched the movie “Requiem for a Dream”. It’s a powerful movie about the descent of four people into various drug addictions. The filming is very well done and I couldn’t help but feel like I was falling into the pit along with them. As I watched, I began to see that this movie is a perfect depiction of hell.
I’ve grown up with a view of hell as a place where God points his finger and sends all the naughty people so that, like some Promethean epic, they can be eternally torched and fileted by red devils and yet never die. But in the past few weeks, I’ve begun to see hell as, quite literally, addiction to that which never fully satisfies.
We recently had a guest speaker at RUF who was from (of all places) Duke University, and he gave a powerful sermon on hell by looking at the story in Luke about Lazarus and the Rich Man. It’s amazing to me that I can have heard this story a hundred times and even performed it in a production of Godspell, and yet never really comprehended the significance of it. The interaction between Abraham and the Rich Man is so telling about what hell is really like.
The first thing to notice is that while there is divine interaction on the part of Lazarus, the rich man dies, gets buried and is in hell. He didn’t get manhandled or sent there, it’s just where he went. And thing he says when he sees Abraham and Lazarus is not “Help get me out of here”, or, “I’ve been wrongly put here”, but simply “Send Lazarus to come and give me some relief.”
The rich man doesn’t even recognize he’s in hell! He thinks that he can still order Lazarus around and doesn’t see any reason why Lazarus shouldn’t come to him instead of him leaving and coming to them. Just like an addict, the rich man doesn’t want freedom from his drug of choice, just another fix to tide him over.
In C.S. Lewis’ book, The Great Divorce, Lewis draws a picture of a heaven and hell where there’s a bus that will take anyone who would like to go from hell to heaven, yet surprisingly few people ever make that journey and even fewer stay. The Hell of the Great Divorce is an enormous, empty city who’s citizen, ever more fed up with encroaching neighbors, keep moving further and further away and deeper into themselves.
Humanity has a singular addiction to the drug of self. It is the reason that so many who take the bus ride to heaven decide to turn back, because Heaven requires one to quit self. Heaven is about Jesus Christ and Him alone, because He is more than sufficient. But many would rather get another fix of self and, like a druggie, take that needle and shoot it up as they watch everything they used to care about get burned up in the flames.