I have sometimes explained hell this way. If all your life you play tug-of-war with God, hell is simply God letting go of his end of the rope. Hell is you winning the war. I have also thought about this analogy in the context of church kids who rebel against God.
Because I grew up in church and have taught some at Christian schools, I have seen a lot of church kids join in this tug-of-war with God. Some of these kids actually know God is real and are not having some intellectual crisis about the historicity of Jesus or about the problem of evil. Many are just pissed-off at hypocrites, legalists, and mean Christians they have encountered in the church. So they have grabbed the rope and joined the world in its tug-of-war against God.
But here is the crazy thing—crazy and tragic: they have grabbed the wrong end!
It is the wrong end if it is hypocrisy, meanness, and superficiality they are pulling against. When we read the gospels, we realize how hard Jesus fought against religious people who lacked compassion, who were hypocrites, who were unwilling to leave everything to follow him.
Those who hate hypocrisy should be grabbing God’s end of the rope. He and the Holy Spirit are always straining to pull the church out of hypocrisy and loveless legalism. If we rebel against God because we have been wounded by Christians, we have grabbed the wrong end of the rope.
I don’t know how to do it, but I wish I were better at handing the right end of the rope to some of the ex-Christians I meet. Because they have higher standards for what a Christian should be than some Christians. I want to run into the street, flag them down and say, “Wait, wait! Jesus hates hypocrisy too! Pull on this end!”
Or maybe they have grown weary of superficial, over-hyped, shallow spirituality. “Wait! Don’t go! Jesus invites you to embrace a purpose worthy of your highest sacrifice and noble enough to thrill your soul. Pull on His end of the rope. “
When we fight hypocrisy by walking humbly and honestly with God, loving sinners and confronting hypocrites, and abandoning ourselves in wild love for God, we discover we are pulling with God, not against Him.
When we grab the rope, our hands will touch the hands of Jesus who is anchoring the end.