So my two oldest children are in a quandary.
Our daughter is five and she went to a church where they told her (in her words) that bad people go “down there” to hell (pointing down to the center of the earth) and that good people go “up there” to heaven (pointing to the sky). Now, I am not sure what else was shared (what is hell like, what is heaven like, how to you avoid one and go to the other) but I am sure what she heard: If you are good, you go to heaven and if you are bad, you go to hell. This was about a month ago and she still brings it up. I can’t imagine the fear she has (from doing bad things and going to hell) or the haughty pride she has (from doing good things and going to heaven).
Our son is ten and his school talked about suicide a few months back. Afterwards, the kids began talking about it and the conversation steered towards the afterlife. It was a basic understanding of the kids that if you commit suicide you go straight to hell. This freaked Caleb out. To be honest, it still haunts him and I think he is terrified right now of hell.
Even though we have reassured them of God’s love and forgiveness of them, time and time and time again, it seems to only take one conversation about “down there” to send them into a fear-based tailspin. Even though we tell them often that there is nothing they could ever do or believe that would cause God to love them less or more, that God fully loves you right now, one little tiny hellish seed can creep in and cause tons of fear.
Please wish us luck and pray for words and wisdom.
And a request to the world: Stop telling my kids they are going to hell. Thanks.