Q: When people are near death, what can I say or do to help them? I am not a pastor, so I don't want to do anything wrong. What can I say if they have never known Jesus?
A: Situations like this are hard because we often put so much stock into what we say and do when we share Christ with others. In reality, it's the Holy Spirit that does the work of conversion. Many times during someone's suffering, we primarily need to be there for them. They likely won't (or can't) respond to someone who is just preaching at them. They need our presence and our love. This however, doesn't mean that you can't bring up God. What I do is ask questions: Are you spiritual? Did you grow up in church? What is your relationship with God like?
This is natural way to transition the conversation to God. If they are open, you can share a verse, offer to pray for them, or even tell your story of how you came to Christ. You don't have to be a pastor to minister to others. As believers, we are all called to be a holy priesthood: "You also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ."—1 Peter 2:5
Integrate grace and truth in your approach. Apply grace by showing love, presence, and being respectful. Hold to truth by sharing Christ, but allow the Spirit to do the work. It is Jesus, our High Priest, who does the saving, we are simply his hands and feet. —T.A.
Q: If someone is born with a developmental disorder or has a mental illness that prohibits them from believing, will they go to hell?
A: No. I don’t believe anyone will be judged beyond what they can comprehend. I believe that scripture teaches that we are responsible for responding to what we know. According to Romans 2:14-15:
"Even Gentiles, who do not have God’s written law, show that they know his law when they instinctively obey it, even without having heard it. They demonstrate that God’s law is written in their hearts, for their own conscience and thoughts either accuse them or tell them they are doing right."
According to Paul, the writer of Romans, people who don't have the written word of God will be judged according to what they know. How do people know there is a God? The creation and their conscience. The creation speaks to the evidence of a creator. People also have a conscience that tells them right from wrong.
So what if someone cannot comprehend this? What if they can't understand scripture, the creation, and don't know right from wrong? I don't believe they qualify for the judgment and are exempt. This does get tricky, because it's hard to draw an exact line of where that exemption lies. People of many different theological stripes disagree on this issue. For me, it comes down to the fact that I believe God to be merciful, loving, and gracious. He wouldn't unfairly punish someone who is not even able to understand or take responsibility for their actions. —T.A.
Q: I have OCD with really bad thoughts. I find myself condemned, guilty, and depressed. Will God forgive me?
A: God looks at the heart and at our intentions. Obviously, these are not thoughts you want to have, and God sees that. Asking for forgiveness is something we should all ask for when we pray. However, you aren’t losing your salvation every time you have these thoughts. In Romans 8:33-34, the Apostle Paul states: "Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us." If you are united with Christ, there is no condemnation, not even from yourself. This is a great passage to meditate on:
"And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:38-39).
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a mental illness that many people, including Christians, struggle with. I believe that God only judges us for sins (actions) that we do rebelliously with a high hand. We all have distorted and even very strange thoughts that we can’t control. I believe God fully understands our limitations. We have broken bodies and broken minds that are the result of a fallen creation. The Bible calls these infirmities—they aren’t sins, but physical and mental conditions.
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This information is given with the understanding that the author is not rendering medical or legal advice. This is provided for educational purposes only. Names and identifying information have been omitted.