For Our Sins

When people begin rethinking atonement, salvation, and the eucharist along these lines, they often wonder, “What then does it mean to say that Jesus died for our sins?” They assume the for in that statement means “as a penal substitutionary sacrifice for.” It is far more natural, I think, to interpret the for more simply. Consider, for example, these two sentences: “I took medicine for my disease,” and “I got a ticket for speeding.” In the former sentence, the word for does not mean “as a sacrifice to appease my disease.” For means “to help cure my disease.” So we understand that Jesus’ death intervenes in human history to have a curative impact on our hostility and violence, to turn us toward the ways of peace. And in the latter sentence, for doesn’t mean “to pay for.” It means “because of.” Because I was speeding, I got a ticket, and similarly, because we are hostile and violent, Christ died. God didn’t torture and kill Christ; we did. And that tells us something essential about both God and ourselves.

— Brian D. McLaren, Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road?, p. 212

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