A Word in Response to Sarah Silverman1
In a video posted to social media on Friday, January 8, in a clip from her weekly podcast, the secular Jewish comedienne and actress Sarah Silverman claimed that there is no hell. She said that she wanted to alleviate the fears of those who believe in eternal punishment. “If you’re in the range of my voice right now,” said Silverman, “and you’re someone who believes [in] and fears hell, let me release you of that fear right now. There is no hell. I promise you.” “I mean, what do I know?” Silverman, added, seemingly recognizing that she could be wrong. However, she followed with, “But I believe it with my whole heart.”
Well, there you have it. Don’t worry, Sarah Silverman has decided she doesn’t like the idea of God holding his creation accountable for their moral rebellion and idolatry and immorality, so the easy thing to do is simply declare that there is no hell. But the Apostle Paul begs to differ. Writing under the inspiration of God the Holy Spirit, he assures us all that no one will escape. Appropriately, I think, Paul is specifically addressing Jewish men and women, like Sarah.
“Do you suppose, O man [or woman]—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed (Romans 2:3-5).
Silverman wasn’t finished. She went on to say, “If there’s a hell, may God strike me dead right now.” Because she did not die, Silverman smiled and said,
“See, no God.”
When I first read that, I found myself getting angry. But my rage soon turned to tears. I wept for Sarah Silverman. How tragic that someone could so badly misunderstand why she was not struck dead following her statement. How tragic that she failed to grasp the beauty and majesty and mercy of the God whom she insists does not exist.
Sarah, the fact that you were not struck dead on the spot is confirmation of the truth of what Paul says in Romans 2:4. You have not been “struck dead” because God is immeasurably rich in kindness, patience, and longsuffering. He continues to sustain your life in order that you might have time to repent.
The very thing that leads you to conclude that God doesn’t exist is one of the glorious truths about God! He is kind. He is patient. You don’t deserve to be given opportunity to repent, time after time after time. But because God is infinitely rich in kindness and exercises forbearance and is incredibly patient, he doesn’t strike you dead so that you will have yet another opportunity to recognize your sin, to come to grips with the inevitability of judgment, and to turn from your wickedness and put your faith in Jesus Christ.
God’s “kindness,” says Paul, has a purpose. He is withholding judgment as long as possible so that you will recognize the eternal jeopardy in which you have put yourself and turn to him, crying out for mercy and forgiveness. The fact that God doesn’t immediately strike you dead, or anyone else for that matter, isn’t because he has turned a blind eye to your sin. It isn’t because he intends to excuse your rebellion. It isn’t because he is indifferent to your contemptuous disdain for him. It isn’t because he is weak. And it certainly isn’t, as Sarah wants us to believe, because he doesn’t even exist.
It is because he is immeasurably more kind than you can possibly imagine. He is merciful. He is loving. He is gracious. And he is indescribably patient with someone like you. He withholds his judgment in order to stir you to repentance. So don’t presume upon this grace. Don’t take it for granted. Repent! Now!
There is only one reason why any of us are alive today, sitting up, breathing, thinking, eating, sleeping, and going to work. We owe this to the kindness of God. Don’t presume upon it, says Paul. Seize this glorious opportunity and embrace Jesus as your only hope.