That is the dreaded question we all face from time to time.How do we respond to it?Greg Koukl has offered some helpful insights.
First, we should point out that Christianity does not teach that people go to hell because they don’t believe in Jesus.The reason people go to hell is because they are guilty of wrong behavior, not wrong belief.They are condemned already.Belief is the only thing that will prevent them from experiencing the natural consequences of their behavior.Sin is like a terminal disease: if it is not treated it will eventually kill you.Those who die of an untreated disease do not die because they haven’t visited the doctor, but because they have a disease.Likewise, people do not die of sin because they have not visited Dr. Jesus, but because they have a spiritual disease.Jesus is the one who holds the cure for their disease.By not accepting the cure, they choose to die in their sinful disease.
How can we communicate this to unbelievers?First, we should be sure to avoid giving a simple “yes” or “no” answer to this question.The reason for this is tactical, not rhetorical.A simple “yes” answer makes the Christian look like a judgmental bigot, and all too often the non-Christian will immediately pounce on you for your response, allowing you little chance to explain your answer.So it’s best to give an explanation as your answer.Here’s how this approach might look in action:
Non-believer: “So do you believe I’m going to hell?”
Believer: “Do you think people who commit moral crimes ought to be punished?Justice demands that people who are guilty of wrongdoing be punished for their crimes.The message of Christianity is that those guilty of moral crimes ought to be punished for those crimes unless they have been pardoned.God has provided such a pardon in Jesus Christ.He is the only answer to our sin problem because He—and only He—paid the penalty for our crimes.We can either take that pardon and go free, or refuse it and stand alone before God to pay for our own crimes such as they are.We will be judged fairly, but justice will prevail.
“The pertinent question, then, is whether or not you have committed any moral crimes.All of us have.That’s the bad news.The good news is that we can be pardoned for those crimes by putting our trust in Jesus, and accepting what He did on our behalf.Are you willing to accept His pardon?”
I hope this tactical approach proves helpful in your own evangelistic efforts.Not only will it take the edge off of an uncomfortable question, but it will also explain the essence of the Gospel in the process.