Monthly Archives: September 2014

Not Forsaken, part 1

Jesus’ death on the cross, his reception of every death dealing act of humanity, is what ties the whole of Scripture together. In Isaiah 53, we read the famous words…
He was despised and rejected by mankind,
a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.
Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to our own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.

The way we’ve told ourselves to understand that is by creating this vengeful God who needed to be appeased or paid back. That image doesn’t tie with the pathos and ache voiced by the prophets of the Old Testament. The rage we hear in their words is not expressed at the people but at the separation the choices the people made. It doesn’t tie with God’s encouragement to Cain to open his heart. It doesn’t tie with God’s actions in establishing the covenant with Abram. It doesn’t tie with Samuel’s explanation to Saul Samuel and Saulabout why he’s losing the kingdom. It doesn’t tie with the Older Testament. God doesn’t hate us. He hates the death we create. He hates the circumstances that evolve out of those deadly choices. He hates what separates us from him.

And this is why it also doesn’t tie with the presence or message of Jesus. This other way of understanding God and God’s law and God’s wrath is why Jesus is the one who brings us the story of the unloving sons. He tells us this story of a father who has a boy who acts like he’s an orphan and another who acts like he is a slave. Neither recognizes the worth or love of their father. So, one leaves until he has no other reasonable choice than to return, with a willingness to act like his brother the “slave.” The other rebels at love because he sees no worth in his brother or his father. Worth is found only in what he is able to accomplish, what he is able to prove by his efforts. Neither one gets it. The love of the father is unknown by each of them. They have not gotten to know, love or even respect the father. The one decided he needed to prove why he should be accepted by the father, never realizing that he owned everything within the father’s realm. The other did what most second children do. He decided to be “other” than the first, never realizing the heart of the one who loved him best. Some dead part within each of these sons kept them from responding to or perhaps even recognizing love.

The father ached and “went out to” each of his sons, came seeking after them to the point of looking weak. This is the image of Jesus. God seeks after us. He does this and allows himself to be diminished in the eyes of those who observe his actions. He humbles himself. He also walks into the consequences of the death created by the heartlessness of his children to come on him. Each may reject the father even more than before. We are not told how they react. We are just invited into the story and the chance to examine our own separation.

We use the word “iniquity” for the activity of sin, but if we recognize it as carrying the tone of “degeneracy,” and not broken rules, we recognize that this is that part of us that doesn’t generate. The parts of us that don’t create life are what Jesus and God walk into in order to establish new life.cross It also restates what Jesus was experiencing on the cross… and his not being forsaken by God.

(part 2 – next)


Putting the Pieces Together

Let’s say then that sin isn’t breaking rules. And that’s important enough to repeat. Sin is NOT breaking rules. rules2Sin is creating a dead spot in our soul by breaking a relationship with someone who loves us. It is choosing to create separation. That separation is from what is life-giving. Life-giving sensations, feelings, sensitivities are all part of our whole natures – our souls and when we choose against that we deaden some part so that it doesn’t respond as it should. When it doesn’t respond, we don’t act in the way we like to act. We create false experiences of relating with other people that separate us from them and in some cases causes them to choose separation from us and others as well.

The Bible tells us that first human beings did this. They chose to deaden their relationship with God. And so, instead of being life-giving to the world and to oSo,ther people, they began to regularly, intimately and intricately create separation and deadening experiences in others. We passed it on, like an infection. And we see it happen that way every day, in subtly gentle ways and in massively horrific ways. In can be passed along, like a cold, in common interaction, like an advertisement that takes a heart-felt truth and turns it into a sales promotion, by whining ourselves into isolation and even by selling other humans.

One of the things that teaches us that sin is not breaking rules is that Jesus is not made sinful by being with us, touching us or associating with us. What became known as “holy” was seen as clean and pure. We were told that God was distant from us… clean and pure, unable to abide the touch of sin. A friend once described this as similar to a ink line on a silk shirt, as when some doesn’t realize the pen is still open and puts in into the pocket, marking a short line across the material.penshirt It is ruined. There’s no getting the ink out of the silk. In this same way, my friend said, God can’t allow sin to touch him.

The problem with that is Jesus, who came and lived with us. Jesus touched people who were sinful, who were told they were out of the reach of God and who, it was claimed, could “infect” someone else with their sin. But that’s all “breaking the rules” sin, the Law. Jesus came and reinterpreted the Law and taught us that we had no idea what it meant. Some people who read Jesus’ reinterpretation, in the Sermon on the Mount, will tell you he makes righteousness beyond the reach of everyone by what he says. But what Jesus was telling us was that we got the point of the Law wrong. The Law wasn’t a set of rules that we had to avoid breaking. The Law is God saying, “Don’t do this because it will hurt you, it will deaden a part of you. Do this instead because it will bring you life.”

So, Jesus didn’t die to make us pure and holy. He died by receiving the consequences of all the death created by human beings throughout history. All the death we create within our souls and within the souls of others, Jesus received so that a way could be made for us to re-grow the dead parts into life-giving, healthy parts.

What Jesus brought us was the means of finding life, of living with each other and growing into wholeness in our souls.

More to come…