Wednesday, March 17, 2010

This Is Gonna Hurt

I've been reading David Lose's book Making Sense of Scripture recently. It's a pretty good book, and I'm getting more out of than I expected to.

Yesterday, I was reading the part where Lose is talking about Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection as the center of scripture. He addresses the three main types of atonement theory briefly, but then suggests that it will be more helpful to think about the Cross and Resurrection in terms of what it tells us about God and our relationship to God. I like that.

He starts by saying that the first thing it shows us is that God is holy and we are not or something to that effect. I was put off by this and a bit surprised. It's traditional, sure, but throughout the book Lose had been presenting a more post-modern approach to things.

Then he brought together a bunch of references to explain what he meant, beginning with John 3:17-20
Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgement, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed.
OK...not what I was expecting. He goes on to connect this with the story of Adam and Eve hiding from God after they ate the apple, the story of Isaiah worrying about his unclean lips when he sees God in the temple and the story of Peter asking Jesus to leave his boat because he (Peter) is a sinful man. Those were what I was expecting, but the reference to John 3:17-20 had changed my perspective.

Perhaps it's not so much that we can't live in God's holy presence as we don't want to. And the Isaiah story, along with John 3:19, suggests the reason. We don't want to have a burning coal pressed to our unclean lips, even if that is the gateway to the presence of God. It makes me think of the way my daughter would rather walk around with a splinter in her foot than submit to the tweezers that would pull it out.

On the cross, Jesus takes all our sin and brings it into the presence of God. It's not pretty. He comes out the other side shining like the sun but still bearing scars. What does this tell us about the God who rescues the world with a flood, who recreates Israel by sending them into exile, who saves us all by sending his Son to die?

When angels appear to people in the Bible, the first thing they say is "Don't be afraid." Maybe the next thing they should say is "This is gonna hurt." Faith, I think, is the art of trusting the first part, even while knowing the second, and the cross is a picture of that kind of faith.

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