Demanded by Us

April 3rd, 2020

While the Gospels clearly and consistently reveal that the death of Jesus was at the hands of men to please and appease religious and political rulers and satisfy an angry mob, many religious leaders today see the death of Jesus on the cross as a sacrifice which pleased and satisfied God. But this interpretation sides with the religious and political leaders who called for the death of Jesus. Many religious leaders then and now believed that God wanted Jesus to die, and that peace would come only through His death. The more modern Christian theologians who argue for this view teach that while the blood of bulls and goats could only temporarily cover our sin, the death of Jesus was the ultimate and perfect sacrifice which God needed and demanded as the complete payment for sin. This way of thinking about the sacrifice of Jesus does not undermine the sacrificial system, but supports and buttresses it as never before.

The best way (and the most ancient way) of understanding the death of Jesus on the cross, however, is to see it not as something demanded or required by God in order to extend forgiveness of sins to humanity, but instead as something demanded and required by humans as a way to reinforce the great lie which we have lived beneath since the beginning of the world. The great lie is that God is angry at us because of sin, and when bad things happen in life, it is because God is angry at us, and so the best way to deal with sin and an angry God is to find the “sinner” in our community and kill him or her in the name of God. Then God will be pleased that we have taken care of sin and will bless us once again.

Jesus was viewed by the people of His day as a sinner and blasphemer who needed to be condemned, accused, and executed in accordance with the will of God. But it was not God’s will. No execution or sacred violence is ever God’s will. How do we know? The death of Jesus revealed this truth to us. The death of Jesus did not reveal that God wants death, but that we want it. His death reveals our vile hearts and violent ways, while at the same time revealing the heart of God as always forgiving and only loving. The death of Jesus called us to the one thing God has always wanted for us, which is to live as He lives, with nothing but love, grace, mercy, and forgiveness extended toward others.

— J. D. Myers, Nothing But the Blood of Jesus, p. 150-151

Direction Comes with Joy.

April 2nd, 2020

Joy is one of the ways the Lord confirms His Word to us. He may tell us to do something difficult, but because His direction comes with joy, we believe Him and are motivated to obey. If we forget the joy He gave, we’ll lose the power to carry out His commands.

— Mike Mason, Champagne for the Soul, p. 160

Photo: Keukenhof, Holland, April 1999

Kinship

April 1st, 2020

For Jesus, the self that needs to die is the one that wants to be separate. This is the self that recoils from kinship with others and balks at union at every turn. It is the self that wants it all to remain private and thinks it prefers isolation to connection. We know that the early Christians believed that “one Christian is no Christian.” This larger sense of belonging to each other acknowledges that many are the things that connect us, and those things that divide are few and no match for our kinship.

— Gregory Boyle, Barking to the Choir, p. 195

Photo: Bull Run Regional Park, Virginia, April 8, 2019

No Satisfaction Needed

March 31st, 2020

At the cost of repeating myself, I want to note that in all these psalms there is no need for anyone to die. When a person turns to God from a wrongful path, divine forgiveness of sin is a gift generously given, pressed down and overflowing, because of the goodness of the God who loves them: “as far as the east is from the west, so far God removes our transgressions from us” (Ps 103:12). No satisfaction is needed.

— Elizabeth A. Johnson, Creation and the Cross, p. 60

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, March 22, 2020

Don’t Get Stuck on the Grievance Channel

March 28th, 2020

Our hurt feelings are important, but we help ourselves to remember they will pass. I work with many people who struggle to trust their good feelings. They are more comfortable when their painful feelings come to visit, like annoying relatives who do not know when to leave. These people’s remote controls are stuck, and they do not know how to bring them in to the shop to be fixed. Being stuck in a cycle of pain makes it easy to forget that negative feelings are no more real than positive ones.

Love, feelings of appreciation and gratitude, and the ability to notice beauty are all real. They are important. They are deep expressions of the human experience. Unfortunately, many disappointed and hurt people develop the bad habit of focusing more on their hurts than their blessings. This keeps them stuck in a cycle of pain and the sense that lasting peace and love are out of their grasp. Even good feelings will change and pass on. Some days we see the cup as half full and some days as half empty. To have a deep and full life, we need to be able to experience all of our emotions appropriately. The problem is we cannot find the full range of human experience when our remote is stuck on the grievance channel.

— Fred Luskin, Forgive for Good, p. 170

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, March 22, 2020

The Subversive Heart of Revelation

March 27th, 2020

But Revelation pulls an amazing surprise. In place of the lion that we expect, comes a Lamb: “Then I saw between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders a Lamb standing as if it had been slaughtered” (Rev 5:6). It is a complete reversal. Actually the Greek word John uses is not just “lamb,” but the diminutive form, a word like “lambkin,” “lamby,” or “little lamb” (arnion in Greek) — “Fluffy,” as Pastor Daniel Erlander calls it. The only other place this word arnion is used in the New Testament is where Jesus says he is sending his disciples out into the world “as lambs among wolves” (Luke 10:3). No other apocalypse ever pictures the divine hero as a Lamb — Revelation is unique among apocalyptic writings in this image. The depiction of Jesus as a Lamb shows him in the most vulnerable way possible, as a victim who is slaughtered but standing — that is, crucified, but risen to life.

Reminiscent of the servant-lamb of Isaiah 53, who “is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep to the shearers is silent,” the Lamb of Revelation became the victor not by militaristic power and slaughter but rather by being slaughtered. From beginning to end, Revelation’s vision of the Lamb teaches a “theology of the cross,” of God’s power made manifest in weakness, similar to Paul’s theology of the cross in First Corinthians. Lamb theology is the whole message of Revelation. Evil is defeated not by overwhelming force or violence but by the Lamb’s suffering love on the cross. The victim becomes the victor.

Lamb theology is what true victory or true nike is. For we, too, are “victors” or followers of the Lamb on whom the term nike or conquering is bestowed. This is one of the amazing features of the book. Much of Revelation can sound so violent, but we have to look at the subversive heart of the book — the redefinition of victory and “conquering” — to understand how Revelation subverts violence itself. Just like the Lamb, God’s people are called to conquer not by fighting but by remaining faithful, by testifying to God’s victory in self-giving love.

— Barbara R. Rossing, The Rapture Exposed, p. 110-111

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, March 27, 2020

It Comes Down to Love

March 25th, 2020

In the end, it comes down to love, and God’s love never fails for the weak or broken of heart and spirit.

— Julie Ferwerda, Raising Hell, p. 89

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, March 22, 2020

Loving Like Christ

March 24th, 2020

With this experience with Christ, we discover we too can love lavishly, and that love covers a multitude of sins in the world. We discover that the more we forgive others, the more love fills our hearts and crowds out old hurts and resentments. More and more sin’s power over us is repealed and the power of love is displayed. While it is sometimes unwise to drop all boundaries with someone who may hurt us again, lavish love allows us to forgive a person from a distance so that we no longer feel anger or contempt or repetitively re-experience our wound on the movie screen in our mind. Jesus’ call to forgive overcomes the injury and helps us heal. Love lavishly and we are not tempted to use words of contempt or spread unkind stories about another person. This call to constant love is not a dreamer’s verse. It is a description of what it means to follow Christ and live out the lavish love he told his disciples would be the basis and norm of their new life.

— Tom Berlin, Reckless Love, p. 60

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, March 22, 2020

Radical Solidarity

March 23rd, 2020

The point of the Christian life is not to distinguish oneself from the ungodly, but to stand in radical solidarity with everyone and everything else. This is the full, final, and intended effect of the Incarnation — symbolized by its finality in the cross, which is God’s great act of solidarity instead of judgment. Without a doubt, Jesus perfectly exemplified this seeing, and thus passed it on to the rest of history. This is how we are to imitate Christ, the good Jewish man who saw and called forth the divine in Gentiles like the Syro-Phoenician woman and the Roman centurions who followed him; in Jewish tax collectors who collaborated with the Empire; in zealots who opposed it; in sinners of all stripes; in eunuchs, pagan astrologers, and all those “outside the law.” Jesus had no trouble whatsoever with otherness. In fact, these “lost sheep” found out they were not lost to him at all, and tended to become his best followers.

— Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ, p. 33

Make Mistakes

March 21st, 2020

Make interesting, amazing, glorious, fantastic mistakes.

Break rules.

Leave the world more interesting for your being here.

Make good art.

— Neil Gaiman, Art Matters, “Make Good Art”

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, March 19, 2020