Archive for the ‘Redemption’ Category

Beloved

Wednesday, June 24th, 2020

We must see this clearly, or we will miss the point of our life in Christ. Christ’s followers today receive the same calling and commission. If we miss this, it will have consequences. Rather than be witnesses to Christ in the way we love God, others, and ourselves, we will begin to think that Jesus came to make us nicer or a little more thoughtful, the kind of people who remember birthdays and select more personal Christmas gifts. Rather than tell others about God’s grace or offer mercy, we will believe that living a Christian life is about feeling forgiven of our sins. Rather than telling others about the habit-changing, bondage-breaking, turnaround-making power Jesus can have in our lives, we will cultivate a relationship with Christ that is so personal that we never share it with anyone else. Rather than speaking out and working for justice with those who hold position and power in our community and society, we will spend our time telling the already convinced how much better the world would be if it were not exactly as it is. Rather than offering acts of solace to those who grieve, comfort to the sick, or kindness of conversation with prisoners or returning citizens, we will simply offer thanks that we are not in such predicaments ourselves.

Jesus takes us on a journey so that he can deploy us on a mission. He offers his love to us so that we will share it with the world. He does this because he loves us. The first disciples knew they were beloved, not only because of what Jesus did for them, but because Jesus believed in them when he called them to go to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth. He knew what they could do for him. Jesus believed in them more than they believed in themselves. He saw more potential in them than they ever thought possible in their lives. He forgave them for what they were not, just as he celebrated all that they were. All of this is what is at the heart of being beloved by another. When we are beloved, we gain the confidence another has in us and make it our own. That confidence transforms how we think of ourselves. It guides the journey that, in the end, leads to who we become. Such love, once extended, is what stirs up a new sense of possibility in our lives.

This is the love God has for you, and the belief God holds in you. We must have faith that God believes in us, in our ability to love our neighbor, to treat ourselves properly in this life, and to worship the Lord with our heart, mind, soul, and strength.

— Tom Berlin, Reckless Love, p. 136-137

Photo: Rhein River from Burg Rheinstein, Germany, July 1997

The Way of Jesus

Saturday, June 20th, 2020

The ultimate truth that Jesus revealed by becoming a scapegoat and then offering forgiveness is that forgiveness is the best, most successful, and most divine way of creating peace in times of conflict. Since most conflict is generated through an ever-increasing cycle of violence and retaliation, no party in a conflict is ever truly without fault. Except Jesus. He alone, among all human scapegoats in the history of the world, could have justifiably retaliated against humanity for the crimes committed against Him. Yet instead of retaliatory vengeance, when Jesus was on the cross, He turned to God and prayed, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” Accepting forgiveness for what we have done and extending forgiveness to others is God’s only divinely-sanctioned mechanism for creating peace and restoring relationships in times of conflict. The way of Jesus, which is the way of God, is the way of peace through forgiveness.

— J. D. Myers, Nothing But the Blood of Jesus, p. 220-221

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, June 19, 2020

Always Merciful

Wednesday, June 17th, 2020

Scripture testifies that the cross did not begin the outpouring of divine mercy to the world. It has been present from the beginning and endures forever. No one threw a switch to turn off its flow, though one might think so, given the way preaching and teaching have labeled the cross as the event that triggered divine forgiveness. Gracious and compassionate, God has always been acting mercifully.

The cross of Christ brings this infinitely merciful love into a different kind of personal intimacy with the pain and death of creatures. In view of Jesus’ death the words of divine solidarity at the burning bush, “I know well what they are suffering,” can be announced with unexpected resonance. Together with the resurrection from which it cannot be separated, the cross anchors divine saving love historically in the flesh of the world’s evolving life. In its light we see that saving mercy accompanies all creatures in the world’s beautiful, terrible journey through time to final fulfillment. The grace of this presence empowers life to emerge anew, rebuilds broken relationships, forgives wretched human sin, and embraces all the dead into their future, promised but unknown.

— Elizabeth A. Johnson, Creation and the Cross, p. 223-224

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, May 22, 2020

The Scapegoated God

Tuesday, May 19th, 2020

The fact that the lamb is slain since the foundation of the world reveals that this is the way God has always been. He has always been an innocent Lamb who allows Himself to get slain for the sake of others. He is the premier scapegoat of humanity, but as a perfectly innocent scapegoat, it is best to describe Him as a Lamb. As the scapegoated God, Jesus identifies with all scapegoated, sacrificial victims since the foundation of the world. When we kill others in God’s name, Jesus is right there, with the sacrificial victim, being killed alongside the one we condemn, accuse, cast out, expel, dehumanize, and kill, all in the name of God. Through this revelation, we once again see that we can no longer scapegoat others in God’s name, for God is not a God who blames, accuses, and condemns, but is a God who loves, forgives, and accepts. And He calls us to do the same.

— J. D. Myers, Nothing But the Blood of Jesus, p. 206-207

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, May 16, 2020

God’s Amazing Love

Sunday, May 17th, 2020

The story of Jesus told as accompaniment makes clear that there is no master plan in the divine mind to engineer his death in order to garner satisfaction for everyone else’s sins. The cross was in no way necessary. Think about it. Wouldn’t such an idea be blasphemy? It would ascribe to God, gracious and merciful, an evil that was done in the course of human injustice. How contradictory can you get?

Not even remotely did Jesus’ death satisfy divine honor; it dragged that honor into the dust. Nor did Jesus’ crucifixion change God’s attitude from anger to being appeased, as more popular atonement theologies would have it. I dare say that if the will of the living God had been carried out that “good” Friday, Jesus would not have been crucified.

The double solidarity of Jesus with those who suffer and of God with Jesus structures a theology of accompaniment so that it brings the presence of God who saves to the fore. Keep in mind that we are talking here about the same God who sides with slaves against the might of Pharaoh, with exiles against their imperial captors, and now with a crucified prophet against the Roman empire; “a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for the thousandth generation, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin” (Ex 34:6-7). We are talking about the same gracious God, “your Savior and your Redeemer” (Isa 49:26), whom Jesus called father, whose compassion flashed out from the picturesque parables Jesus made up, and was tasted in the challenge and joy of his multiple interactions. Toward the end of the New Testament we read the bold statement that “God is love” (1 Jn 4:8). This is a pithy summary of all that has gone down in the history of revelation up to that point. God loves the world and, like any good lover, wants the beloved to flourish.

Given the negativity of the cross, the creative power of the loving God showed itself once again in an unexpected new way by (unimaginably) raising Jesus from the dead. But God neither needed nor wanted the cross. True, this evil was encompassed by providential action, by God writing straight with crooked lines. True, in an antagonistic world suffering borne in the loving struggle for the good of others can bear fruit. But in itself, violent death is not what God desires.

— Elizabeth A. Johnson, Creation and the Cross, p. 108-109

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, May 17, 2020

Good Ending

Wednesday, May 13th, 2020

In church circles where people are claiming they “chose Jesus” or “came to Christ” (presumably of their own free will), the Scriptures paint a different picture. “You did not choose Me, but I chose you” (John 15:16). Our real first choice actually begins after our eyes have been opened and our heart has received a deposit of belief through an encounter with Jesus.

Because of the Creator’s determined plan that trumps the will of the inferior creature, even the bad intentions and behaviors of others will most certainly be limited and worked out for our good. Sovereign will is one of the most comforting realizations I’ve ever had. If good hasn’t resulted yet, it’s only because the Story hasn’t played out long enough.

— Julie Ferwerda, Raising Hell, p. 200

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, May 13, 2020

Scapegoating God

Friday, May 8th, 2020

Once again, since Jesus perfectly reveals God to us, and since Jesus was perfectly innocent of all the crimes for which He was accused, we can know, therefore, that God also is perfectly innocent of all the crimes against humanity for which He is accused. Just as Jesus was innocent of all wrongdoing, so also is God. Jesus always loved and only forgave, and the same is true of God. Jesus never killed anyone, nor did He command anyone to do so. The same is true of God. One of the greatest revelations we received from Jesus is the revelation of scapegoating, and not just how we scapegoat others, but also how we have scapegoated God. This idea alone will allow you to read your Bible with brand new eyes. When the Bible is read with the revelation about scapegoating that we have in Jesus Christ, we see that all the violence and bloodshed attributed to God in the Old Testament is nothing more than people making a scapegoat out of God.

— J. D. Myers, Nothing But the Blood of Jesus, p. 178

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, May 3, 2020

Resurrecting Word

Monday, May 4th, 2020

To those who believe, the call from the depths of their relationship with God is to bend every effort to stand with God in solidarity with those who suffer; to right the wrongs, counter injustice, relieve the pain, and create situations where life can flourish. Then a resurrecting word can gain a foothold in this fractured world.

— Elizabeth A. Johnson, Creation and the Cross, p. 108

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, May 3, 2020

Life Right Now

Wednesday, April 29th, 2020

Here is what they are missing; “eonian life” is not eternal life. It means coming into life (relationship with Jesus) in the age that the Bible writer is referring to and continuing through the remaining ages. In any age you live that you are connected to Jesus — the life source or “Vine” — you are enjoying life in that age. For instance, as a believer in Christ, I am currently enjoying life pertaining to this age. When the next age arrives, perhaps the seventh age of the “Wedding Feast” or “Sabbath Rest,” I will no longer be enjoying life in this age, but then it will be life pertaining to that age. Eonian life, then, is not so much about a time that begins after we die, but more about a quality and vitality of life right now, lived in fellowship with God through His Son….

There are many more such verses you can look up, correcting them with eonian life and the proper verb tense to experience the greater truth that Jesus came to give us life right now — not just later — and that people’s lives are markedly improved when they believe, understand, and live the true Gospel message.

— Julie Ferwerda, Raising Hell, p. 154-155

Photo: Meadowlark Gardens, Virginia, April 3, 2012

Generous Love

Thursday, April 23rd, 2020

The true point of the text is summarized in Hebrews 10:5-10. The truth is stated twice that God never wanted or desired sacrifices, nor did He take any pleasure in them. Instead, what God wanted was someone who would do His will. Jesus perfectly obeyed God’s will, which made Jesus the perfect living sacrifice. Yet Jesus did die. He died a sacrificial death. Through His death, He shed His blood for the sins of all mankind. The Bible clearly reveals this truth, as does the book of Hebrews. But the question is Why? Why did Jesus die? Why did Jesus shed His blood? Why did the shed blood of Jesus accomplish what bulls and goats never could?

The author of Hebrews has the answer. Jesus did not die because God required or needed sacrifice. He died to take away and bring an end to sacrifice. Jesus did this by revealing through His own sacrifice at the hands of men that God does not want sacrifice; we do. People sacrifice to God, even though God didn’t want such sacrifices. We sacrificed to God because we wanted sacrifice, and because sacrifice seemed to bring peace into our lives and communities. But when Jesus died and rose from the dead, He revealed that God does not want sacrifices, but instead wants people to live their lives in faithful obedience to Him, as He told Saul so long ago, “To obey is better than sacrifice” (1 Sam 15:22). Living in a relationship with God is what God has always wanted (cf. Heb 10:16). The sacrifices of the Mosaic Law were given as a substitute for relationship, but now that we have seen from Scripture and through Jesus that God never wanted or desired sacrifices, but only wanted us to live in a loving relationship with Him and each other, we can put away all sacrifices and live as God desires. Best of all, this is the only true way to find the peace we all seek. When we generously love and freely forgive as God has done for us, we then find peace with God and with one another.

— J. D. Myers, Nothing But the Blood of Jesus, p. 153-154

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, April 6, 2020