This reply grew larger than I intended, but I’ll leave it long …
I was pretty much depressed all my life before I understood UR. I felt guilty because a Christian is ‘supposed’ to be characterized by joy, and I didn’t know why I was depressed until it went away when I came to believe that God doesn’t ever shut the door on anyone or stop working towards their salvation. Hell was always vividly real to me. But I think (as Sherman also said) most people don’t think about it much–maybe it’s too abstract or faraway, or maybe in their heart of hearts they don’t really believe it. Sometimes it becomes real to a person with the death of an unsaved person they love. Maybe it was more real to me because my mom and her side of the family are mostly not Christian. Their cultural religion is Buddhism. So from a young age I was faced with the dilemma of having loved ones who did not know Christ and who did not take me seriously if I tried to share with them.
I do find it troubling that so many Christians just go blithely along through life with nary a thought for those who are perishing, but I think that apathy is encouraged by the idea that they can’t really do anything about it. According to traditional doctrine, the mission is largely a failure, and that’s just how it is. And that knowledge also discourages Christians from really loving others like Christ tells us to.
I think it’s quite possible to have joy in one’s own salvation, even alongside a belief in the hopeless lostness of others. If you believe that they choose to remain lost, to reject the offered salvation, what can you do? They don’t really want to be saved—the gates of hell are locked from within (was that CS Lewis who said that?)
Or, speaking from my own experience, even though I was depressed because I believed in hopelessness, many times I would be overwhelmed with the joy of knowing God. That was completely apart from and unrelated to the lostness of others and in hindsight I’d say I was catching glimpses of promises I didn’t yet understand. I feel that joy now when I look at the stars or the mountains or beautiful sunrises and sunsets, and to me they are promises of glorious things. If someone could convince me that my hope of UR was wrong, I would feel that all the beauty and magnificence in the world was a lie–empty and worthless.
I guess I’d say that joy in one’s own salvation combined with disregard of others’ lostness is a matter of maturity more than hypocrisy. Babies are pretty selfish critters, but (hopefully) they get less so as they grow up. Perhaps it is a similar process for Christians. We may begin only glad that we’ve escaped hell, but as we grow in love we become more attuned to others’ needs–and start to care. Then our own joy and happiness becomes inextricably entwined with theirs–but we have to grow into this.
Concern for the salvation of others is fundamental–and truly I do think every Christian should at least wish that UR could be true… The spirit of UR is fundamental–we’re to love our enemies and forgive our debtors.
And that brings me back to what I said before: that the primary doctrines are those that directly deal with our actions. Everything else is important insofar as it enables us to better hold the primary doctrines. Is it better to expound on the principles of agape love or to “visit widows and orphans in their distress”? Is it better to understand the theory of UR or to “go and be reconciled to your brother who has something against you”?
I thank you!