Neither of these two were believers, but Sherry launched into a story about her frustration with her daughter's and son-in-law's newfound born again Christian faith, because it meant that they would no longer spend time with her. Sherry framed this in terms of their opposition to her use of medical marijuana, which she employs because at 71 years old and with arthritis everywhere in her body, it's the only thing, she says, that makes her feel any better.
So the two of them began to voice their frustration with those narrow-minded born-again's and their belief in a God who would be so cruel as to punish sinners. "One God, One Love" was Richie's self-proclaimed motto, while Sherry, apparently feeling more biblical, went with "God is Love." The question became, "How could a good God eternally torture people just because they don't believe in him?"
Well I have no intention to answer that question right now, except to say that I don't think you'll find it in annihiliationism. The conversation turned out pretty good even after I interjected that I myself am one of those narrow-minded born-again's who believes in the Bible and its narrow-minded God.
What really stood out to me was how indignant these two folks were about the idea that God would torment regular, nice folks like them just because they didn't happen to believe in Him. Put another way, they don't believe in sin. Thus my response throughout our conversation was focused often on convincing them that there really is a problem with the world, and that problem is sin. The next step then is to agree with the famous G. K. Chesterton quip: the problem with the world is me. And you. And everyone else.
With that in mind, I really enjoyed F. F. Bruce's reflection on the nature of sin as addressed by Col. 1:21. Bruce writes,
Sin is not only disobedience to the will of God; it effectually severs men and women's fellowship with him and forces them to live 'without god in the world' (Eph. 2:12). Those who are estranged from the one in whom alone true peace is to be found are estranged also from one another, and lead lonely lives in a universe which is felt to be unfriendly. The barrier which sin sets up between them and God is also a barrier set up between them and their fellows. If this letter declares that their alienation from God has been abolished by the redemptive work of Christ, the companion letter to the Ephesians declares that their alienation from one another is similarly abolished by that redemptive work. (F. F. Bruce, The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians, 77-8)I admit that God's justice towards sinners can be hard to swallow, but at my best that is because I recognize how unjust it would be for me to exercise God's justice. I am the one who deserves it. If only people would reflect enough to realize just how unfriendly the world is, then maybe sin would be an easier thing to say.
But then, there is that little problem of a stone heart that tends to thwart such reflection...