It’s time to get out of the hamster wheel.
For years, we’ve viewed the crucifixion as some “thing” God MADE Jesus do so that we might have eternal life in God. (This is called the sacrificial theory of atonement).
On this Good Friday I’d like us to ponder the common Christian reading of the Bible that Jesus “died for our sins”—either to pay a debt to the devil (common in the first millennium) or to pay a debt to God the Father (proposed by Anselm of Canterbury, 1033-1109). We grow in our faith when we are willing to stretch our thinking and consider the ways we look at things. Today – I would challenge us to stretch in our view of the crucifixion.
What happened in the middle of a day so many years ago when Jesus died was our example of how we may truly live life.
Yes – death shows us life.
When we live as if our egos/selves don’t matter, and we connect to the Divine presence of life within us, we are able to withstand all things. We are able to endure things even as tragic as crucifixion and death.
“Christians have paid a huge price for what theologians after Anselm called “substitutionary atonement theory”—the strange idea that before God could love us God needed and demanded Jesus to be a blood sacrifice to atone for our sin-drenched humanity.
Really? God needed a payment? God isn’t Bank of America or Morgan Stanley. God did not need payment, especially such a violent transaction, to be able to love and accept “his” own children.
Franciscan philospopher and theologian John Duns Scotus says, “With that view, salvation depends upon a problem instead of a divine proclamation about the core nature of reality.”
We know the core nature of reality of God is goodness and love. Love as revealed to us through the sacrificial nature of Jesus of Nazareth and how he chose to sacrifice himself. That shows us how to live.
For Scotus, the incarnation of God and the redemption of the world were not how God chose to clean up the mess of humanity as a response to human sinfulness.
Instead God revealing God’s self to us through the person of Jesus was the proactive work of God from the very beginning.
In Ephesians 1:4 we read, “we were chosen in Christ before the world was made.”
Thus, our sin could not possibly be the motive for the divine incarnation but only perfect love and the divine self-revelation of God.
God does not “react” like we do. God supremely and freely acts.
AND – God always and totally acts out of love.
“Jesus did not come to change the mind of God about humanity (it did not need changing)! Jesus came to change the mind of humanity about God.”
Our egos prefer “status and structure.” Yet God in Jesus moved people beyond the counting, weighing, and punishing model.
Jesus undid “once and for all” (Hebrews 7:27; 9:12; 10:10) all notions of human and animal sacrifice and replaced them with his new economy of grace, which is the very heart of the gospel revolution. Jesus was meant to be a game changer for the human psyche and for religion itself.
When we begin negatively, or focused on the problem (aka – sin), we never get out of the hamster wheel. To this day we begin with and continue to focus on sin, when the crucified one was pointing us toward a primal solidarity with the very suffering of God and all of creation. We all suffer, we all struggle.
Today on Good Friday we feel and experience that suffering and struggle. We witness that it ends in death. BUT – we know that Sunday is coming.
This changes everything. Change the starting point, change the trajectory!
We all need to know that God does not love us because we are good; God loves us because God is good. Nothing humans can do will ever decrease or increase God’s eternal eagerness to love.
Before we get to Sunday, however, let us rest in Good Friday. And yes – I say “rest” because even in the worst tragedy of the suffering and pain, we can rest knowing that the worst things are not the last things.