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An Anomalous Death

Religion across time and cultures is full of people working, sacrificing, and acting in a manner in some way designed to get to the divine. Some have sacrificed anything from the smallest of animals, to human children to please the gods and obtain their favor. Some religions focus on meditation, on performing an impossible clearing of all desire so that the divine may enter the mind and be experienced. Other religions have an intense list of rules that need to be followed without deviation so that god will not be displeased and allow the follower to live in a blessed post-death life. Religions across time and locale have a million variations on what man has to do to attain the favor and presence of the divine.

The common theme throughout is this idea of separation. There is some sort of divide, some sort of barrier in the world or in us that is keeping us from the presence and favor of whatever supernatural force is out there. The vast majority of religions prescribe actions that must be taken by humans to get to the divine. The teachings of Christianity are that the divide that exists was caused by us, is inevitably in us, and cannot be changed by us. It calls this barrier sin. Everyone has sinned. No one is righteous. It requires a righteousness beyond what anyone has ever had to acquire the divine. It is not within the power of humans to overcome the barrier that is keeping them from the divine. Our actions are fated to fail to bring us to God.

So God did something about it. The story of Christianity, and indeed, I believe, the real story of humanity, is that God, knowing our inability to fix the errors we made that bar us from Him, stepped into our realm to defeat the sin in us that keeps us from the favor and presence of God. The real story of the world is not that people are desperate for the divine, but that the Divine has shown himself wonderfully desperate for us.

Desperate enough to die. It’s a pretty familiar thing here in the U.S. with the pervasiveness of Christianity, but if one stops to think about it, it sure sounds frickin’ weird. Yeahp, I’m gonna save the world by dying for it. We think that it takes a lot more dramatic action. In our minds, at least in my own, it seems that the defeat of sin necessitates a lot of punitive measures and constant monitoring of the behavior of everyone. It requires the dealing with all circumstances that cause sin. I don’t know all that the defeat of sin would entail, but dying a shameful death??? Really? Sounds foolish.

What is actually required, however, was not a stronger action, but an infinite love for God and people. This is what Jesus had. He had love for God such that Jesus would not do anything to sacrifice his intimacy with Him – Jesus would not sin because he longed so much for deep intimacy. Yet, he took on all sin and gave up that intimacy, not as an act of rebellion, but as an act of obedience to God and love for the people he came to save from their sins. The love of Christ is unparalleled. No one could take on sin who was already full of it. No one could give up intimacy when they didn’t have it. Only a perfect man, like the unflawed lamb, could give himself up for other with efficacy.

This is not the story of divine wrath. It is not about God being so unable to contain his anger that he had to destroy something beautiful (movie reference, anyone?). There is a cost to sin… actually, it is less a cost and more an earning. What we earn by sinning is death. That is our wage. It separates us from the source of life (God, YHWH, Jesus – in case you’re not catching on) because by living in it, by being taken by it, we are living apart from God, moving away from God, becoming more and more unlike the image of God in us. The sin doesn’t go away. The effects of sin are eternal. The buildup of the barrier between us and God is unbreakable. We are fated to obtain our wage, to get what we deserve. This is our story. Our reality. There is no hope with an intervention of infinite power.

The cross of Jesus changed everything. God came to us because we could not come to Him. He took our sin from us, he took the guilt, he took the dark ugliness, he took from us what was keeping us from reaching Him… he placed it on Himself, and in a mysterious way only possible within the divine relationship, separated himself from the source of life because of the sin he took on. Then, in dying with the sin of the world on Him – taking for himself what we earned – sin died. What was required for propitiation of sin was the death of the sinner, instead, the one without sin placed it on himself and experienced its consequences of death of the body and spirit.

But we have the option of keeping our sin. We can hang onto it and experience separation from God in physical life, and experience the complete absence of God (again, the source of all life) in death. Or we can, like the Jews did with their animal sacrifices, place our sins and sinful heart on Jesus and allow Him to take our sin to the grave. This requires sacrifice because in giving up our sin we sometimes give up things that seem to give us life, but this way that seems right leads to death. Our sacrifice is completely insignificant compared to the sacrifice of Jesus, and just like Jesus and his sacrifice, we sacrifice our sin for the joy set before us, because giving up our sinful selves means the acquisition of intimacy with the God of life and the experience of freedom from things we may never have known were chaining us. God leaves the result of the story of Jesus up to me and you. Choose life with me.

Help me with my writing and thinking… where are my thoughts unclear? Where does my writing get in the way of my thoughts?

Categories: Miscellaneous
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