„Does your God really say: ‘You insulted me, therefore, I cannot look at you any more. So here is my son. You kill him, and then I will be able to forgive you again!“ This is an argument which is often heard in our day against the Christian faith. And not without reason. Christians often like to oversimplify their doctrines. The doctrine of salvation, however, goes far deeper than this arbitrary connection of points to a superficial and absurd conclusion. It affects all spheres of human existence and the existence of evil, and it works, of course, with all facets of the amazing nature of God himself.
To understand the problem better, one must note that God is not only love and almighty, but also true and holy, and also one who respects the free will of the people he created. Therefore, there is just one way to mend the relationship which humans have rejected by sinning against him: It is through God’s own suffering and death. When Jesus dies on the cross, God dies, so the offending human could be resurrected to a new relationship with God.
The Differnt Standard for Me and Others
We can understand this from our daily experience. When someone rejects and betrays our love, our relationship with this person is broken. The relationship can only be restored if we „die“ to ourselves – forget the harm and give another chance to the perpetrator. In this way we make possible a new relationship with them. Those who have gone through this experience, know how painful and difficult it is to deny oneself and make oneself vulnerable again.
On the other hand: people who betray someone’s faith, easily disregard the suffering and pain they caused. They presuppose that the others have to forgive them. E. g. Often an adulterous husband will say (and often the church, thinking superficially, agrees): „How is it that she cannot forgive, if God has forgiven me?“ This is kind of simplistic question reveals a preposterous self-loving pride, which does not seek forgiveness (so God, in fact, could not have forgiven him). God and others should just simply forget what was done and live with the consequences! In other words: People exist to live up to the sinner’s caprice!
Even better. When they are flooded with the evil of the world which they see as perpetrated by others – injustices, wars, bad politics and so on – people are quick to criticize God: Why does he allow this if he is almighty? Should he not stand up for the weak and the victims and put an end to the violent perpetrators, stiff-necked egoists and criminals?
You notice the double standard? When we are being treated unfairly, God should stand up and annihilate the perpetrators of evil. But when we are the perpetrators than God and others should just forget and forgive our sins?
God Had to Die…
The fact is that in Christ, God has shown the one and only possible way to overcome all our sins. He is well aware that in a situation like this, where his love and will have been obstructed, the relationship that was meant to be one of eternal love, has died. People, who were created to live from the Creator’s love, have cut themselves off and are dead. The only way to re-establish the life-giving relationship is through God’s dying. So, when we look at the suffering and death of Jesus, we look at God’s giving-up himself and dying, so that his resurrection life can be the sinners’ resurrection too. In Jesus, God himself dies. (Jesus is not just some less perfect version of God!)
Surely, God could have cut off people for good right there and then when they first sinned and before they ruined all his creation. But God’s love longed for the relationship with his people and sought for a way to restore them to himself. So in his dying on the cross, God teaches us that in the current state of affairs in the world, true love must be ready to suffer and die. This is also the reason why God did not then and does not now “end it all” in one blow. So for years God teaches us through his cross that he is a good God who picks us up in our deadly state. This is also how he awakens hope in the midst of the dying and decay of a fallen world: You can trust a God who died for his people.
… So We Could Live
When Jesus dies on the cross, it is not a doctrine of God “the heavenly abuser of children”. It is a doctrine of God who in the face of rejection continues to love even an evil world. Those who believe him follow in his ways. They stand up for the good when they encounter evil and evil will not scare them, even in the eye of suffering, pain or losing of their lives. They know – because it is God Almighty they serve – that dying to sin is the way of resurrection into a new life. This is not just for an “after-life” future. Resurrected life for them has begun already here and now and its effects are visible wherever believers accept his sacrifice and gracefully live through the suffering of this time – not as victims, but as victors.
So, Happy Easter, dear sisters! Your faithful battles with and victories over the sins of the world are examples of God’s resurrection power in this present time. It is a sign that God is with us and that death has been swallowed up by life (2Cor 5:4).