[quote="Erethorn, post:1, topic:181992"]
This is a question I picked up from an atheist forum. Although the one who posted it made a lot of wrong assumptions about what Heaven and Hell really are, and how people actually get there, something at the core of his question is still nagging at me.
It presented the following simple situation: mother dies, goes to Heaven, son dies, goes to Hell. How can a mother not be eternally grieved by the fate of her son, and what happiness can there ever be for her ?
In other words, what becomes, in Heaven, of the love we had for a person who eventually ends up away from God ?
The answer to this question is deeply tied up with the nature of Heaven and Hell. Heaven is union with God. Hell is separation from God. God is Love. All goodness on Earth is an outpouring of God's nature, since He is Love itself. All our virtue comes from God and is unity with God. All our sin is self-chosen separation from God, Love.
Heaven or Hell are the end of the journey we choose for ourselves on Earth. If we choose, through unloving acts, separation from love, we will in the end of our journey receive complete separation from Love. If we choose, through our loving acts, union with love, we will in the end of our journey receive complete union with Love. These "loving acts" must of course be the life of Christ Jesus in us, union with, belief in and submission to Christ Jesus, for He is Love itself made present among us and any division from Him is division from the true nature of love.
No one truly loves what is evil. People love what is good. As the Psalms say, "hate what is evil, love what is good." In this world, every human being has a mingling of good and evil within them because we are all on the journey still; we haven't reached the final destination. Therefore God can be seen in everyone in some way and should be loved. "Love the sinner, hate the sin," as St. Augustine put it. In this way, we are loving God (Matt. 25).
When life ends, things change. Each person receives the completeness of what they chose in life. As St. Paul says, "each man reaps what he sows." People that chose separation from Love receive complete separation from God. They chose to reject God, Love, in life, and so they "live" (I don't even like to call it life; the Bible calls it "the second death") without Him in their final destination. Since all virtue and love and goodness flow from God and the damned have separated themselves completely from Him, they are entirely without redeeming qualities. There is nothing good at all in them. They would be almost unrecognizable to the people who knew them on Earth.
People in Heaven will feel pity for those on their way to Hell because they still have the presence of God within them. Someone who has become in nature akin to the demons is no longer loveable, though, because they have entirely abandoned and rejected the nature of Love. Evil is not itself loveable. We can't love evil, and evil is all that can be left in a creature from which Love is completely removed. The unbearable agonies of Hell are all chosen by the creatures that go there and are logical and necessary consequences of complete separation from the presence of God.
It is a just punishment for their unspeakably evil choice to reject all that is good. Hell is also one final abuse people make of the natures God gave them, for as Ecclesiasties says, God put eternity in the hearts of men as a gift. Just as He gave us our bodies to use well in love, He gave us eternity in our souls as part of the nature of our beings. People on Earth that corrupt their bodies by choosing to use them for evil means, separating their bodies from Love through unloving actions, abuse their bodies and their lifetimes on Earth, gifts that God gave them. The one who uses his eye or his hand for evil abuses it, for God made it for love. In the same way, people abuse the gift God gave them of eternity in their hearts. God gave them that gift so that they could use it to rise to glory and everlasting life, but instead we use it to create horrors for ourselves and one another, and on Earth people blame God for their own abuses out of ignorance. Those that choose Hell deserve Hell and those that choose Heaven deserve Heaven. On the Last Day, God's justice will be proven throughout the nations.