Fire. It can warm our homes and hands. It can add light to supplant darkness. It can cook and add flavor to our meals. Yet, fire is also to be feared and respected.
Fire is an element common to the spiritual domain. With it we are able to incinerate resentments, purify our transgressions, and forgive those who have caused us pain. It is very useful, indeed. Fire and repentance go hand-in-hand. Fire=forget. Fire=the ability to start anew. Some have asked me, “Doesn’t God do these things?” To this I would answer, “Yes, through spiritual fire.”
John the Baptist addressed those who came to him to be baptized by saying “I baptize you with water; but there is one to come who is mightier than I. I am not fit to unfasten his shoes. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” His shovel is ready in his hand, to winnow His threshing-floor and gather the wheat into His granary; but He will burn the chaff on a fire that can never go out.” John was revealing Jesus.
As we repent behavior that is unacceptable to God, the thoughts that preceded that behavior are cleansed via a purifying fire, and washed away with our Holy Baptism. Once cleansed, we each have the opportunity to start anew, never to commit that sin again.
Our sin is the chaff of which John the Baptist spoke. The chaff is useless, while the wheat is acceptable and helpful for our spiritual bodies and the body of Christian believers as a whole. Once the chaff is destroyed and cleansed, we are free to make choices individually and as a society that will lead to a better life and a better earth.
The fire of Hell? Hmmm. Have faith.
The discourse at the baptism can be found in Luke 3:16-17.