I recently read read this question on an online bulletin board:
I have a question for the Christians out there.
Do you truly believe in a God that would send an atheist, who is a decent, giving, charitable human being, to hell just because that atheist didn't believe in him?
I think this is a question that turns up a lot, and while it may be sincere at times, usually I get the idea that Christianity is being put on trial by the asker. However, to the sincere seeker who really wants to understand the character of God and His relationship to an atheist, I do have some answers, a couple of which I learned from my dog.
God is God - He is Judge. It is not up to any of us to say what God will do. All we can do is point someone seeking answers to scripture and encourage them to find the answers there.
God is a God of Love and Mercy, of infinite Patience (I know this from personal experience). He is compared to a mother hen who wants nothing more than to cover His chicks with his feathers. He is compared to a gentle and good shepherd who defends his flock, goes after the lost sheep... and ultimately lays down his life for them. He is compared to a husband who wants to love, care for and protect his fickle, faithless wife, yet is jealous of her looking at others and turning away from Him time and time again. As our Creator and our Redeemer, He certainly has a right to expect some degree of appreciation!
I have a little dog whom I love dearly, a 6 lb. Papillon named "Miss Katy." I bought her; I feed her; I take her to the vet; I give her medicine when she is sick. I hold her in my lap and stroke her her soft, silky fur and tell her that she is my good, my sweet dog and that I love her very much. I keep a variety of doggie treats on hand which I hand out frequently. She has toys and soft beds. I protect her and provide for her because I love her.
I even bought her a special harness so the collar does not put too much pressure on her neck. But I DO put her on a leash because I know if I let her off, dopey dog that she is, she will run off. She has gotten away from me before on more than one occasion, and I run after her through my neighborhood like an idiot calling "Miss Katy! Miss Katy!" So far I have always caught her and brought her safely home.
However, if she runs away from me, and I chase her and she won't let me catch her, ignoring me, her Master, her loving owner, and if she removes herself from my protection to the point that she says in her little doggie head, "I have no Master," do I love her any less if she chooses her own fate and will not return to me? What do you think the fate of a little stray 6 lb. dog would be in a world of fast cars, coyotes, rabid skunks, heartworm, and the rest? Would that be lack of mercy, love, compassion on my part if she runs away from me and suffers the bitter consequences as the result of removing herself from my loving hand?
How much more God loves the seeker and the atheist than I love my beloved little companion.
I think singles often have issues regarding our "freedom." We like to run and we like to play. We like to set our own schedule, our own agenda, our own priorities. Christian singles are obviously not atheists! However, we too must be wary so that our love of freedom and independence don't cause us to run too far from the protective hand of our loving Master.
Note: I lost my little Miss Katy in March of 2012, but the lessons I learned from that sweet dog remain.
From our 2001 archives
Miss Katy - A Little Papillon with a Big Heart
A Poem for Katy (Who Made My House a Home)