Archive for the ‘Redemption’ Category

The Way of Forgiveness

Saturday, September 12th, 2020

So is the blood of Jesus precious? Yes. Of course! But it is more precious than most of us have ever realized. The blood of Jesus did not pay some sort of debt in the divine bank account for our sin. No, God had already taken care of that through His gracious forgiveness from all eternity. The blood of Jesus is precious because it reveals to us the most important truth of all, which is a truth we could never have seen or understood on our own. The blood of Jesus reveals to us that God does not want or demand blood sacrifice, but that we want and demand it. We require blood to alleviate our own guilt and solve our own problems. But by coming and dying as a scapegoat on the cross, and then rising again and refusing to retaliate, Jesus revealed that there is a different way. Jesus revealed the way of God, which is the way of forgiveness.

While sacrificial violence does bring a temporary peace, it comes at the price of the life of another. Forgiveness, however, brings a better and more lasting peace and one that does not require us to take the life of another, but invites us to unite in love and harmony with one another, just as God in Christ unites with us. How thankful we can be that Jesus suffered and died at our hands and for our bloodthirsty desires, to reveal to us that we do not have to live this way any longer. Like God, we too can love; we too can forgive. Only in this way will the world finally find peace.

Nothing else reveals our sin to us like the violent death of Jesus on the cross. All other sacrificial and scapegoat victims we could justify. They deserved it. They truly were guilty. We were just treating them the way they treated us. But not so with Jesus. He was “sinless” and knew no sin, but we killed Him in God’s name anyway, thereby proving that this is also what we do to others when we feel justified and righteous in killing them. Only the innocent blood of the Lamb of God could reveal this to us and also call us to put an end to it through forgiveness. For of all victims throughout history, only Jesus would have been justified in retaliation and vengeance against those who wrongfully accused and killed Him. But instead He forgave us. This shows that we too can forgive others. We can forgive as we have been forgiven. We can love as we have been loved. The way out of sin is to see how Jesus dealt with our sin against Him. Nothing and nobody else could have so clearly revealed this to us.

— J. D. Myers, Nothing But the Blood of Jesus, p. 264-265

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, September 12, 2020

God Unwrathed

Friday, September 11th, 2020

The Cross reveals God unwrathed — nonviolent, self-giving, radically forgiving, co-suffering love. And this — impossibly, amazingly — is how he overcomes evil with good. God in Christ draws all the evil, all the sin, all the violence and the resulting suffering into himself. And the Light of his love overcomes the darkness so that from that moment, “It is finished” also means “It begins!” What begins? “Behold, I am making all things new!”

— Bradley Jersak, A More Christlike Way, p. 169

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, August 24, 2020

Restorative Justice

Monday, September 7th, 2020

It’s time for Christianity to rediscover the deeper biblical theme of restorative justice, which focuses on rehabilitation and reconciliation and not punishment. (Read Ezekiel 16 for a supreme example of this.) We could call Jesus’ story line the “myth of redemptive suffering” — not as in “paying a price” but as in offering the self for the other. Or “at-one-ment” instead of atonement!

Restorative justice, of course, comes to its full demonstration in the constant healing ministry of Jesus. Jesus represents the real and deeper level of teaching of the Jewish Prophets. Jesus never punished anybody! Yes, he challenged people, but always for the sake of insight, healing, and restoration of people and situations to their divine origin and source. Once a person recognizes that Jesus’s mission (obvious in all four Gospels) was to heal people, not punish them, the dominant theories of retributive justice begin to lose their appeal and their authority.

— Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ, p. 142

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, September 7, 2020

The Blood of Jesus

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2020

The blood of Jesus does not purchase forgiveness for us, pay the penalty for sin, or appease the wrath of God. God didn’t need the blood of Jesus as any sort of payment or appeasement. God does not desire blood and death. The blood of Jesus has nothing to do with any of those things.

No, the blood of Jesus is the solution to the problem of human sin because it both exposes the true nature of our sin to us, and then calls us to no longer participate in these practices. The blood of Jesus calls us away from scapegoating and violence, toward love and forgiveness. In this way, the blood of Jesus truly does save the world from sin. It saves us, not because it buys redemption and reconciliation from God, but because it reveals to us the truth about our sin and calls us to live toward others as God has always lived toward us: with nothing but love, grace, mercy and forgiveness. When we live this way, all the world will know that we have been saved from sin.

— J. D. Myers, Nothing But the Blood of Jesus, p. 259-260

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, August 30, 2020

All People Were Always Welcome.

Friday, August 21st, 2020

The violent death of Jesus on the cross revealed the truth about the great problem of human sin and violence. The truth is that such violence comes from us; not God. When we see this in how we killed Jesus, His violent death on the cross reveals that God never wanted or needed blood sacrifice or sacred violence of any kind in order for people to draw near to Him. All people were always welcome. We can draw near to God simply because we have no reason to stay away from Him. He has always loved us, and always forgiven us. One group is not more or less sinful than anyone else. All are invited in. All are welcome. The blood of Jesus has brought everyone near, by proving that no one was ever kept at a distance. All divisions of men are nothing more than man-made divisions, and now Jesus has torn them all down, giving us all equal access to God and equal standing before Him.

— J. D. Myers, Nothing But the Blood of Jesus, p. 246

Photo: View from Stirling Castle, Scotland, July 2003

God Forgives.

Friday, August 7th, 2020

The blood of Jesus reveals that God does not lash out at human sin and does not retaliate or seek revenge. Though we humans do such things (and often blame our behavior on God), God always and only forgives, loves, rescues, and redeems. We thought we were pleasing and appeasing God when we killed Jesus, just as we thought that all blood sacrifices to God were given as propitiatory sacrifices, but in reality, this attempt to please God turned out to be the greatest sin ever committed by humans. And even then, what did God do? He forgave this sin, just as He always does.

— J. D. Myers, Nothing But the Blood of Jesus, p. 240-241

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, August 7, 2020

Not a Punitive God

Tuesday, August 4th, 2020

In his critique of his father and uncles, Jung recognized that many humans had become reflections of the punitive God they worshiped. A forgiving God allows us to recognize the good in the supposed bad, and the bad in the supposed perfect or ideal. Any view of God as tyrannical or punitive tragically keeps us from admitting these seeming contradictions. It keeps us in denial about our true selves, and forces us to live on the surface of our own lives. If God is a shaming figure, then most of us naturally learn to deny deflect, or pass on that shame to others. If God is torturer in chief, then a punitive and moralistic society is validated all the way down. We are back into problem-solving religion instead of healing and transformation.

— Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ, p. 84-85.

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, August 1, 2020

Forgiving Even This

Friday, July 24th, 2020

God allowed us to sacrifice Jesus to expose to us the shocking truth that it is we who want sacrifices; not God.

Paul’s overall point is that God has never violently lashed out in the past when we humans committed sin. Instead, God has always overlooked and forgiven such sins simply because that is what a forgiving and righteous God does. So also, in the present time, God forgave and overlooked the greatest sin of all, the sin of murdering Jesus. Yes, it was necessary for Jesus to face a violent death on the cross, but this was so that Jesus would be the perfect revelation of God’s righteous forgiveness. The fact that God forgives humanity for the terrible sin of killing Jesus proves that God always forgives. In this way, God is proven to be both just and the justifier of those who believe in Jesus.

The reason Paul makes this argument is because many people in his day (as in ours) believed that God was a God of vengeance and retaliation. But God’s revelation in Jesus Christ showed that He is not violent or vengeful. Instead, He is forgiving and righteous. To prove this, God let us kill His own Son, Jesus, in His name, as a “scapegoat sacrifice” (thinking that by killing Him, we were propitiating God and appeasing His wrath toward sinners), and then instead of revenge or retaliation He offers forgiveness. If God was really as we thought Him to be, then He would have destroyed humanity in anger and violence for wrongfully accusing and killing His own Son. But God did not do this. Instead, He simply forgave. Why? Because this is how God always behaves toward sin. He is righteous, and His righteousness is demonstrated through His free forgiveness of the worst of human sin. This is Paul’s point in Romans 3:20-26.

— J. D. Myers, Nothing But the Blood of Jesus, p. 239-240

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, July 19, 2020

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