One of the most important questions you can ask in this life is, “Why did Jesus die?” It is a historical fact that he did, and that his death – and resurrection, the reason his death was significant – caused a world changing revolution. Much of the beauty of the Gospel (literally “good news”) has been misunderstood and misconstrued by religion, but rediscovering it would change the world in ways religion never will. It will work miracles in our individual hearts, and help us answer other questions, such as, “How can I be saved?” (Acts 16:30-31) And, “Is this good news for all creation?”
The cross is the greatest love story of all time, showing us God’s true heart of infinite love.
This year, the start of Lent fell on Valentine’s Day, when we celebrate love, especially romantic love. This is perfect – IF we understand God as our bridegroom, the Bible as a love story between Yahweh and a flawed and confused people who often prefer to relate to him through human religion. Yahweh, though he grieves over our religiosity, bears this burden because sacrificial love is his very essence.
God’s power is unlike our fallen world’s understanding of power. It is expressed in the self-sacrificial laying down of power to allow creatures genuine free will. God does not overpower us or force us to see him accurately. In fact, if he laid aside power at the creation of the universe, then perhaps he CANNOT force his good will. Even creation itself is evidence of this. Angelic beings who were also given free will used it to corrupt nature as it evolved to include diseases, parasites, birth defects, and all kinds of unimaginable suffering, not the will of God. Not once did Jesus tell anyone that their suffering was a divinely orchestrated test to endure; he treated each case as if evil was behind it. Even in Jesus himself, God could not always accomplish his will to heal (Mark 6:5; Matthew 13:58). What he did is offer himself, even while people were yet hostile to him and did not reciprocate his love or faithfulness.
To capture even a glimpse of God’s relentless love, imagine that your beloved spouse has been cheating on you. You learn he/she is inside the new lover’s house being physically unfaithful when the new lover sets the house on fire…. It was a trap to kill your spouse. What do you do? God rushes into the burning building and gives his life pulling us out, even though it was our doing. He did this for each of us, knowing that afterward, many of us would still reject him.
We can also imagine God’s unconditional love by considering the story of the prodigal son told by Jesus (Luke 15:11-32). No matter what the son did or how far away he strayed, the father was always waiting to welcome him back with open arms! He did not require punishment to be served before running out to meet his returning son with a celebration! There are other biblical examples of a lost sheep or a lost coin. In every illustration there is nothing but rejoicing when the lost is found (Luke 15:1-7; Luke 15:8-10). Jesus wept over the lost and had compassion on them; he perfectly reveals God’s heart of never ending mercy. It wasn’t the father’s heart that needed to be changed; it was the prodigal son’s heart. Likewise, Jesus didn’t come to change God’s heart about humanity, but our hearts about God. Jesus reconciled us to God, not the other way around. He made the turning of our hearts possible by displaying God’s love and mercy.
We see this same merciful love and forgiveness being poured out by God throughout the Bible as his people fail over and over. One reason the Bible seems more credible than other religious texts is that it is so real – not propaganda that God’s people have it all together! In our continued weakness, God’s love is strong.
I missed out on the beauty of the Christus Victor understanding of the atonement, of God looking like Jesus giving himself for us, dying on the cross to save and redeem us and all creation, being raised in a church with religious notions of God as so angry he needed blood as recompense and rules impossible for us to keep. But if Jesus was in fact the human incarnation of God – and I have logical, evidential reasons to believe he was – then he clearly revealed the exact loving nature of God because he was God.
God is love. In love there is no darkness (1 John 1:5). God is angry about sin because it hurts those he loves, in the same way we have “righteous anger” about injustices like animal abuse, rape, and murder. We desire justice. We have processes for taking the guilty to court and hope for judgment in favor of the victims. God is like the good judge who is angry at the spiritual evil behind sin. Satan has deceived his beloved – us – to break covenant with God and step into bondage to him. In this way, “the thief” has stolen God’s image bearing humanity from us. If even a loving human parent would be heartbroken and angry over somebody enticing their child into something that drags them away to their death (James 1:14-15), how much more would a perfectly loving God be heartbroken and angry.
When Christ defeats and takes away our sin (separation from him) on the cross, it is no more – it is as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103.12). The world is still broken because of sin, but our hope is for God’s final judgement and restoration of all that is still wrong and hurting in the world. In the meantime we are called to love others, self sacrificially like Jesus did. In that way we battle against our only true enemy which is never flesh and blood but “spiritual forces of evil” (Ephesians 6:12).
Thank you for reading and following our blog, we pray you are blessed by it and will share it with others! Stay tuned for Part Two coming soon! Blessings ~ Jessica