Question 19 of the Westminster Shorter Catechism asks, “What is the misery of man’s fallen condition?”
The answer given is, “By their fall all mankind lost fellowship with God and brought His anger and curse on themselves. They are therefore subject to all the miseries of this life, to death itself, and to the pains of hell forever.”
As I read this question, I am reminded that there are parts of Christian teaching that make us uncomfortable. No true believer relishes the idea that there is a real judgment and real people will spend an eternity in torment. This statement is not negated by the existence of some groups like Westboro Baptist Church who do appear to revel in the pending judgment of others. These groups clearly misunderstand and misrepresent the grace of God and display attitudes that are contrary to the savior they claim to worship.
Jesus, himself, lamented over the unrepentance and hard heartedness of the people of Israel when he said,
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again, until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’ ”(Matthew 23:37-39, ESV)
We see all around us the effect of man’s fallen condition. Just watch the evening news where there are stories of death, war, terrorism, abuse, estrangement, exploitation and every other form of evil, in every country on the planet. No governmental system has been successful in eradicating injustice and poverty.
Why is this the case? The catechism teaches us that it is because we have lost fellowship with God as a result of our sin.
Jesus lamented over Jerusalem because they would not understand that Jesus came to fix the breach we made in our relationship with God. In their stubbornness, they could not see that Jesus was the Messiah who came to die for the sins of the world. Please note that I am not singling out the Jews in this. The crucifixion of Jesus came about as a result of the collusion of Jews and Gentiles. The correct answer to the question of “who killed Jesus?” is “we did.” We are all guilty.
But those of us who are in Christ and have accepted his provision for us have had that guilt removed. We are no longer under condemnation (see Romans 8:1). We can begin to rise above the misery of this life and experience joy in our relationship with God.
And we have the opportunity to share that joy with others.