Translating the Good News
The Christian Church on earth is being called on to take up the challenge of translating what it really means in this time to confess allegiance to its Lord. This is the Lord who established divine justice and peace through his own death and not by vanquishing all who stood in His way. There is an integration that is necessary, a divine Third Way, between the Western religiosity that is primarily concerned with individual salvation after death and a social Gospel that seeks to make the Good News relevant by using power to defeat power which ignores our very faith in how God saved us, and why.
Because have no doubt, our God is a God of divine and equitable justice. To be fully aware of the majesty and miracle of our salvation by Jesus Christ we have to continually pray for the renewal of our minds, our actions, and our lives by the God who loves us enough to die for us.
And our salvation is a deeply personal one. It was secured not by a commander far away from us, removed to a place of safety and control, but by One who came to live with us as one of us including all of the mess and pain (as well as the joys and triumphs) of human life.
And while it may be tempting to glorify suffering which many Christians do, I think in these days of tumult and change it is also tempting to seek to alleviate suffering at all costs. I would love there to be a button to push that would make this virus go away and for racial and economic justice to arrive yesterday. We live in a culture where most of us can get what we want when we want it and we are only now just beginning to understand that these changes that are happening in and around us have been the experiences of our siblings in Christ of other colors or class.
Talking about Wrath
And we really don’t like to talk about the wrath of God very much. We like our God to be warm, cuddly, and to bring us a lot of presents at Christmas. But Paul, in his letter to the church in Rome, makes it quite clear that our situation, before the coming of Jesus Christ, was quite precarious in relationship to our creator.
In fact, I believe that the entire book of Romans is about the very wrath that we avoid talking about at all costs.
“No,” we say, “God is not wrathful, He is not judgmental (except over people we disagree with), He never gets angry, and He can help us find a parking spot in a rainstorm.” But that God is quite pedestrian and tame.
That is good for those of us who want to live our lives the way we choose to (without being afraid of the consequences of those lives) but, in fact, it is not good for us in the long run because, lost in our sin, we cannot ever bridge the chasm that divides God from God’s creation.
“What,” we ask, “God cannot come to us if we are lost in sin, but we thought God was God?” Of course, God could come to us who are lost in sin, but if He did do you know what would happen… we would die. It is for our own good and not out of retaliation that God would keep us from His presence. For in His love for us He still knew that until we attained righteousness – until we finally started living in accordance with His law, we could never be in his presence without being fully consumed by his righteous anger and moral indignation.
What is Jesus saving us from?
So, when we claim that Jesus is our “savior,” what do you think it is that Jesus is saving us from?
“From our sins,” is the most common response. And that is a true answer but, again, it doesn’t go far or deep enough into the term “savior” to really grasp what a wonderful and amazing thing God did to/for us in Christ Jesus.
Because Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection saved us from God! Look, we must confess that if there were any work we could do to heal the breach between heaven and creation, God would not have sent his Son to die. In fact, all humanity did, even when given the law, was misuse or misunderstand it and we continued to screw things up with God and with each other over and over again.
God is determined to call each of us His child, and in that relationship, God is determined to bestow on us His inheritance… everlasting life. And so, Jesus’ death on the cross was a “propitiation” for our sins. This means that Jesus’ death fulfills God’s anger by removing sin from the world and allowing God to reconcile himself to us. This is not a covering up of sin, or God pretending to look the other way, it is a removal of sin from the picture once and for all.
A New Lens
That one idea should revolutionize your understanding of your salvation today my friends. And not only that, but it should be the lens through which you absorb all of the news, all of the static, all of the politics about where we are as a community and a nation today.
God is calling each of us to fulfill our commission here, today, in this life. Let us begin by letting go of the sin which we pretend holds onto us but, in reality, we hold on to for fear of the unknown. We have been made free and it is our job in this life to share that Good News with all humanity.
Thanks be to God.