Sound Teaching

This is the teaching site of the West Side church of Christ in Fort Worth, TX. Unless otherwise indicated, all materials were written and prepared by Stan Cox

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In the News: “Stand by You”

ImageThe Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade is not the same as it used to be. Nowadays it serves as a way for current pop stars to sing snippets of their latest songs. It’s good advertising, I suppose, but kind of awkward to see the artist standing on a float that has nothing to do with his or her song, obviously lip synching for 35 or 40 seconds.

This morning Debbie had the parade on, and since the football game hadn’t started, I was watching. A young singer, Rachel Platten, was singing a portion of her song, “Stand by You.” Here is a portion of the lyrics:

Even if we’re breaking down, we can find a way to break through
Even if we can’t find heaven, I’ll walk through Hell with you
Love, you’re not alone, cause I’m gonna stand by you
Even if we can’t find heaven, I’m gonna stand by you

The song is a typical pop song about love, with proclamations of lifelong fidelity and devotion. There is obviously no deep theological thinking to be found here. (The word gonna is seldom associated with deep thinking!) Nevertheless, the line, “Even if we can’t find heaven, I’ll walk through Hell with you,” gives cause for reflection.

First, the reality of Hell is not seriously considered by most people. Interestingly a Gallup poll from 2004 revealed that 81% of Americans believe there is a Heaven, but only 70% of Americans believe there is a Hell. Of those who believe in the existence of Hell, only 6% believe that they personally will go there after death. 77% are fairly positive they will go to heaven, with the remaining 17% expressing confidence, but less surety.

This does not jibe with Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 7:13-14, “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” It’s safe to say that many of the 94% of Americans who believe in hell are not actively seeking to do God’s will, and yet they still believe they are going to escape the condemnation God has prepared for the ungodly. Logical thinking is obviously not a strength of Americans these days. (Which may explain inanity of current political discourse!)

Second, the choice to forego heaven for a stroll through hell with your beloved is wrong headed.

  • It does not benefit the one you love, who should instead be admonished to repent! The spiritually minded must show their love to those caught in sin by warning them! (cf. Galatians 6:1-2).
  • Too, it shows a stronger tie and devotion to your beloved than to God Himself. Jesus said, “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me” (Matthew 10:37). There should be a limit to our loyalty, even to those we love. That limit comes when a choice must be made between them, and God Himself.
  • Finally, a walk through Hell is no pleasant stroll. Jesus described it this way: “And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 25:30). This pit of torment is an eternal punishment. It is a place of despair and utter hopelessness. It is not a place that will be made palatable if it is navigated with your beloved.

Again, I know that the song is taking poetic license to express the depth of romantic love. But, instead of offering to walk through hell with your love, why not encourage them to take the hand of Jesus?

Hold Thou my hand, so weak I am, and helpless,
I dare not take one step without Thine aid;
Hold Thou my hand, for then, O loving Savior,
No dread of ill shall make my soul afraid.

~ Fanny J. Crosby