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Game of Thrones was a smash hit TV show – I know a number of you watched it. A big reason it became so beloved was because of its complex characters and unpredictability. In the first season, arguably the show’s biggest villain was Jayme Lannister, also known as the Kingslayer.

Jayme is the eldest son of the wealthiest family in the 7 Kingdoms. In addition to being handsome, he’s by far the best swordsman in the realm, routinely winning any contests he chooses to participate in.

As you might imagine, he’s insufferably arrogant. Oh, and he’s sleeping with his twin sister. His illegitimate son is heir to the throne. And in the first episode he tries to kill a child by throwing him out of a tower.

Yeah… he’s awful.

So it’s surprising when, by the third season, Jayme emerges as a fan-favorite character.

What happened? In short, he suffered.

Jayme got captured in a battle, and then he ends up in the hands of some mercenaries who plan to ransom him back to his father. But remember – Jamie Lannister is the greatest knight in the Seven Kingdoms. One night, he almost gets free. The mercenaries realize that if the Kingslayer gets a sword in his hand, they can’t stop him. So they do the logical thing:

They cut off his sword hand.

Whoa. That was one of those scenes that fans couldn’t believe actually happened. It’s like the villain who sets an elaborate trap for James Bond and walks out of the room, rather than just shooting him. Well, these mercenaries just BOOM. Off with his hand.

Without the one thing that made him better than everyone else, Jayme is humbled. He’s helpless, forced to rely on a former enemy to stay alive. And it’s in that helplessness he becomes vulnerable. We see beneath the arrogant facade and come to have compassion for the real human underneath.

I have to tell you – from a writing perspective, the transformation of Jayme Lannister feels like a magic trick. Even knowing how George R. R. Martin did it, it feels really powerful and special.

This is the promise inherent in great suffering – it can break us open and destroy all the walls we’ve built to protect that true self we all hide within.

What happened to Jayme Lannister is an extreme (very extreme) version of what we do when we put kids in time out. We’re trying to strip away all the distractions and give them a chance to calm down, to reconnect with their true selves and get some clarity.

Now, obviously I’m not advocating we unhand unruly toddlers – even the especially headstrong ones.

But we’re spending one last week exploring Christian notions of Hell, and I want to begin with a serious reflection on punishment and suffering (which can be linked, but are not necessarily). Because we think of both of those ideas when we think about Hell – it’s a punishment for sin, and it’s a place of suffering.

We’re going to explore those ideas as bracketed by God’s eternal love.

What is Hell if God is eternally loving?

Join us Sunday as we discover good news in the idea of Hell!

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