Saturday, March 22, 2008

Lent '08 - Day 40: So why does Christ's death matter?

So why does Christ’s death matter? He says he is to draw peple to the Father, to reconcile people to them. I have heard that every act of disobedience (sin) has a cost or consequence. Jesus pays this price apparently. He’s like the jackpot sacrifice paying the price for all. There are songs sung at church about how he we’re forgiven because he was forsaken. That song bugs me actually. It feels cheap and shallow. We see God forgive people in the Old Testament independent of Jesus’ sacrifice. Asking for it and repenting, seem to be the key for receiving forgiveness from God. God himself even gets tired of the whole sacrifice system, where people were using animal slaughtering spectacles to clear their conscience of their wrong, all the while not changing how they lived. As Jesus points out, mercy, not sacrifice, is desired.

But reconciling is a two way thing. I don’t know how much God needed Christ’s sacrifice so he could draw close to us, so he could love us. Maybe it was something he needed to do to help us draw near to him. One catalyst for reconciliation is to know the other side wants to be reconciled. When a relationship with another is strained and you learn that the other wants to restore it, if bitterness and anger have not completely consumed your heart, then this knowledge can move the other to desire the same. Christ coming to earth was carrying a cross from day 1. He was putting restrictions and burdens on himself (i.e. heaviness – like a big wooden cross). He was sacrificing his place of glory for one of an incredible affliction. In doing this, he demonstrated his desire to reconcile with creation that had gone astray. He was putting the issue on the table that God wants to be reconciled to us. We now get to choose if we want it.

But when you decide you want God but know that you have faults, it’s easy to get trapped wondering, fretting, if you have done enough. This has plagued humanity for so long. Rob Bell came to Seattle fairly recently talking about how the gods aren’t angry. He shared some of the ways that people throughout history have attempted to appease the gods, everything from child sacrifice to castration to orgies. In this sense, Christ is the jackpot. We don’t need to worry whether more sacrifice needs to occur for us to be ok with God. We can instead move to what he was desiring from the beginning and what he created us for: relationship. Relationship is surrendering of one’s self to another. That is what is being asked of us now.

I suppose it’s important to accept though that there is a created order to the world, where bad choices have consequences for the one who has done bad. It would be neglecting god’s nature to forget this. It would also neglect God’s nature though to forget about love, love that seeks unity and wholeness (reconciliation). Love is deeper than consequences. As C.S. Lewis said, there is a deeper magic than the usual cause and effect of our actions. This deeper magic says that one can be set free from their wrong, if one who has done no wrong, pays the price for the wrong. Even more, that one who has done no wrong, will also be vindicated despite willfully taking on the wrong of others. This vindication is resurrection. Where death was expected to conquer, life does instead. This is Easter.

I’m praying for a very meaningful Easter tomorrow, to let these truths sink in, to rejoice in the reconciliation set before me, to celebrate the life that is mine in Christ. If this entry doesn’t make sense, or you have questions, please let me know. I would love to talk!

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