Some words are strong for a reason. We need those words to be that intense, loaded, complex, and offensive, because they need to reflect the realities they describe.
And that’s what we find in Jesus’s teaching about hell — a volatile mixture of images, pictures, and metaphors that describe the very real experiences and consequences of rejecting our God-given goodness and humanity. Something we are all free to do, anytime, anywhere, with anyone.
He uses hyperbole often — telling people to gouge out their eyes and maim themselves rather than commit certain sins. It can all sound a bit over-the-top at times, leading us to question just what he’s so worked up about. Other times he sounds just plain violent.
But when you’ve sat with a wife who has just found out that her husband has been cheating on her for years, and you realize what it is going to do to their marriage and children and finances and friendships and future, and you see the concentric rings of pain that are going to emanate from this one man’s choices — in that moment Jesus’s warnings don’t seem that over-the-top or drastic; they seem perfectly spot-on.
Gouging out his eye may actually have been a better choice.
Some agony needs agonizing language.
Some destruction does make you think of fire.
Some betrayal actually feels like you’ve been burned.
Some injustices do cause things to heat up.
— Rob Bell, Love Wins, p. 72-73