"?!?! Hell what? Are you - ? What do you even... ...!
Do I strike you as someone who is afraid of punishment?
Look, hey, I'm not saying I'm above or immune to it! If there's punishment coming, I expect it and I expect it to be just. I do not expect to find it just. I expect it will be just. Or what does trust mean to you?
It, judgment, will not be coming directly - as punishment and reward have not been and are not doled out upon me, in this life. When the full extent of the judgment upon me is made clear to me (oh, not to say I haven't got my own wistful suspicions along those lines already! Let those be. They're idle speculations, and I do not act on them. I'm not the judge either, after all), I will take what's judged. I will take what is judged by the singular, non-incompetent judge of me - in all of existence, we all have precisely 1 of those. Which...no offense, you ain't mine. And if punishment it is, then punishment it shall be. And I will take my punishment, not like a man, but like a child.
I will do what I can to understand it. It may not make sense to me. I will know whether it does once I am given full and definite knowledge of what it is - the judgment upon me (a subject again, upon which I have strong suspicions, but concerning which I quite literally "suspend judgment").
But to be afraid of punishment? To be afraid of punishment from one you know and love, and who knows and loves you, and who you know to be the only possible non-incompetent judge of you, in all of existence - to fear punishment from one who is not only all of that, but who even beyond that: is someone you know to be perfect in judgment and mercy.
To be afraid of judgment in those conditions seems...bizarre. It sounds, frankly, like you either must have fatal doubts as to the judge, or if you doubt not the judge, than you must have grave doubts as to the one judged. As to yourself. I mean, I'm not perfect, but I trust the mercy of he who is. To me, for me to fear judgment would be for me to have indulged too far my morbidly-hypothetical imagination's taste for incomprehensibly worse-than-worst case cases.
Which is fine! No worries, indulging a bit of morbid and curious silliness. That phantasm vanishes in a flash when you relax and settle back: into trust. There's precious little I will trust more than I trust God's mercy and judgment. And that means: if punishment comes, I will trust it to be justice.
Augustine put things a funny way, which I think was wrong, actually. A false dichotomy. He said (and this part's true enough!) that none of us deserved salvation. Sure. How could we? What could we in ourselves do to deserve, earn, be entitled to salvation? No action that we take in this cosmos is sufficient to create that deserved extra-cosmic, beyond-eternal place for ourselves. But the absence of deserved salvation does not imply we have therefore earned punishment.
Augustine made no bones about the fact that each of us was so intrinsically wretched that we did indeed deserve hell. Yet salvation is a completely different thing from punishment. They are not opposites on any sensible scale. Paradise is not the unavoidable consequence of not being tortured, and though we may say pleasure and pain are opposites, it is not an either/or dichotomy where you must either have one, or you shall have deserved the other. Poppycock, sir. Why, when one is in torture and imprisonment, merely to be released would seem the diametrical opposite - a paradise, just to be set free. Yet salvation is far more than that. Salvation - which I would define as the postmortem continuation of one's individuality in the bliss of perfect oneness with God - "
Then I kind of stopped. Got this real faraway look and forgot where I was going with that. Because what an awesome definition of salvation! So idiotically clinical and precise. I could define that ALL DAY, and just sit there listening to the world through those echoes.
Point is, no offense to St. Augustine, but I think he went a little heavier on the pronouncements-of-judgment side than he was truly entitled to go. He damned us all, which was not his call, and then he deigned to allow God to make such exemptions as God chose. Mighty white of you, Auggie!
I might have to have a word with him about it later. HE WAS AN AMAZING DUDE, though. Somebody made a case that he invented the autobiography, in our modern sense of a book whose subject is one's self - and not simply an account of things done or witnessed.