Extinguish Hell and Burn Down Paradise

My Post (29)

If you’re like me, you probably don’t expect renowned Islamic scholars to be women. But a friend recently told me about one named Rabia, who lived from 717–801AD and is considered one of the foremost Sufi saints.

Rabia said something which has had me thinking since I heard it, “I want to put out the fires of Hell, and burn down the rewards of Paradise. They block the way to God. I do not want to worship from fear of punishment or for the promise of reward, but simply for the love of God.”

Whoa! Is that me? You? Should it be?

Would I still follow God (to whatever degree I actually do now!) if I was not concerned about avoiding the horrors of Hell or eagerly hoping to gain the restful joys of Heaven? And in what way, if any, is my honest response to this question indicative of my character and spiritual maturity?

C.S. Lewis reminds us of “the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels,” and wonders if, “ Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak.”

I certainly don’t want to go to Hell and I definitely look forward to the joys of Heaven. But in my heart, I want to desire God above all, desire God more than avoiding Hell, more than enjoying Heaven, desire God principally because of the greatness and love of God. This is what I appreciate about Rabia’s bold declaration: It moves God to the center, to his proper preeminence. I often need that reminder.

Would you share your thoughts on this? You’ve likely considered ideas and aspects that have not entered my mind yet. Thanks for the challenging thought, Rabia. May Muslims and Christians all over give it fresh consideration.

10 Comments

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10 responses to “Extinguish Hell and Burn Down Paradise

  1. Paul Marr

    Maybe it was Lewis again, but who said in prayer we seek not the gift, but the Giver.

  2. Hi, Shane!

    On first blush, Rabia’s statement sounds so very, very religious in the very way we tend to think we ought, and religion ought, to be. On second thought, however, it seems a lot more like straight from Satan himself, with him as god.

    The clear message of the Gospel is that we are granted admission to heaven based on what Christ Jesus has done on the cross — and that we have no place at the wedding feast of the lamb wearing anything else than His righteousness. Our love for God springs from our gratitude for His grace. God, not our love for Him, is God. There is no other.

    But now I’m starting to preach and to preach a message which others are far better able to preach. 🙂

    God bless!

    Mike Green

  3. Paul Currier

    Fascinating, indeed! Rabia made an excellent point: not wanting to be selfishly motivated to pursue God, but being motivated for/by/out of love for God himself.

    Yet, the temptation to believe “I must earn ____” (fill in the blank) is deeply rooted. It seems part of the fall, the curse on mankind, is we think we must work to earn our place with God.

    But God has also put it in man’s heart to ascribe, to tell about, the all sufficient sacrifice of Jesus Christ the Messiah. And what a privilege to be able to humbly offer ourselves as a living, alive sacrifices – not to expand our purposes or plans, but for His. So loving God, its a paradox. “We love because He first loved us.”

  4. That’s so true! Thanks for this info, Shane. Always appreciate what you share.

  5. I’ve heard it said that the entire arc of the Bible’s story points toward the people of God, in the place of God, enjoying the presence of God. That’s the vision of Heaven that motivates those who are pure in heart, according to Jesus. Sure, I believe there will be mind-blowing delights of many kinds in the new creation, but if we view Heaven as a pleasure factory with God as an incidental resident, we’re probably not the kind of people who will wind up there.

  6. Fred Baker

    Our current Sunday School study in Romans discusses God’s purpose, creation, rewards and consequences for our existence – beginning with His lead up to create the nation of Israel and His purpose for it and us, today’s believing gentiles.
    So, reconciling our need for good works and His purposes beyond anything that we may do to deserve God’s grace is daunting. When or what is enough or not enough?
    Just being with God – in the garden in the cool of the day; or, diligently refraining from feeding our evil nature to avoid hell; or putting one foot in front of the other as opportunities to do good and conform ourselves to the image of Jesus Christ it seems that the Islamic Sufi scholar, Rabia, was on point – “ I do not want to worship from fear of punishment or for the promise of reward, but simply for the love of God.”
    I wonder if she had been influenced by some unheralded Christian witness sometime in her life?

  7. rebeccabruner

    This perspective sounds very pious and correct on the surface. However, I have to come back to the foundation of Hebrews 11:6 “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, AND that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” If we dismiss God’s rewards, including Paradise, we are also dismissing a significant aspect of His character. If somebody’s love language is gift giving, rejecting their gifts is a personal rejection.

  8. Greg Swan

    I’m pretty sure Shane is on-board with the truth that we are only saved by grace through faith in Christ alone. I think the point is the idea Rabia was making. I can get wrapped up in what’s “in it for me” more than is healthy at times. We can put headphones on and listen to a wonderful piece of music – one that makes our heart soar. We love that music, and want to listen to it repeatedly. The music doesn’t give us any physical benefits. The music by itself supplies no external “reward”. We love it because it is beautiful. This is Rabia’s point I think – that we can love God, simply because of His beauty and splendor. The better we know Him, what He’s like, who He is, the better we understand just how wonderful He is, and the more likely we are to love Him, and keep Him at the emotional center of our lives!

  9. I agree with what Greg said. My mind went a bit of a different direction. What if we simply focused on God, His love for us and ours for Him, rather than spending thought and energy on avoiding hell or dreaming of a future heaven? What if that is how we participate in make His Kingdom come, on Earth as it is in Heaven?

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