The scaring part of the Gospel

The Good News does have a scaring part. Believing in a Kingdom of God includes the possibility that I –or my friends– might “miss the connection” and get excluded from this Kingdom.

Jesus tells quite some stories about people who missed the connection. The most impressive of them include Luke 16:19–31 (The rich man and Lazarus) or Matthew 25:1–13 (Parable of the Ten Virgins), Matthew 22:2–14 (Parable of the Wedding Banquet). Or Paul later (Romans 6:23) wrote: For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The Gospel does not say that everything is hunky dory and that the world is full of joy, peace and egg cake.

The Gospel does not cancel the observation that there must be some kind of divine justice.

The Bible warns us about a problem, but also tells us what we can do about it. It calls us to “repent”, that is, to turn away from sin.

One problem with this call was the question: but what about the original sin? We can repent from our personal sins (put aside the question who has authority to judge whether something is a sin or not), but you cannot reasonably demand to go back to paradise and change the history of Mankind.

Indeed the Jewish culture had the idea that God punishes sins even through generations (2Mo 20:5: “for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me”; 34,6-7; 4Mo 14,18; 5Mo 5,9). Such words express the observation that a culture is more than a single human’s life, and that we are also responsible for the world where our children and grandchildren will have to live after us.

On the other hand, already five hundred years before Jesus, when the biggest part of the Jewish population suffered as slaves under Babylonian oppression, the prophet Ezekiel 18:20–21 wrote: “The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself. “But if a wicked person turns away from all his sins that he has committed and keeps all my statutes and does what is just and right, he shall surely live; he shall not die.””

Christianity answers this question by giving Jesus the title of “Lamb of God” or “Redeemer” because he died on the cross as an atonement for all our sins, including the original sin. This image of the Lamb of God is an important aspect of Christian faith and a base of inspiration for many liturgical formulations.

Of course, like every image of God, this image can be misused. I perceive statements like “the holy God cannot let sin go unpunished” (found here) as dangerous because they can lead to comminorism.