You know what really disturbs me? The fact that seemingly every time I try to talk about the meaning of the crucifixion to my Christian friends, someone will begin singing:
“♪ He’s not a baby in a manger anymore;
He’s not a broken man on a cross!” ♪
Really? Do you know what you’re saying?
My problem is not with the song (or with the writer, whom I know & respect), but with the way people are mis-using it.
The death of Jesus is the foundational event of Christianity. It’s brutal, shameful, and bloody. It offends people.
It offends many Christians.
You know why? Because it shows a God who is WEAK. A God who forgives his enemies rather than killing them. A God who destroys the forces of darkness with the weapons of love and non-violence.
And I hear people say, “That doesn’t count. Yes, when he came before, he forgave his enemies. He renounced the temptation to become a new Caesar. But when he comes again, he will make himself king. With his own hands he will slaughter the millions who oppose him!”
Okay. So we’re supposed to ignore the Jesus of the Gospels, the crucified God, the God who refuses to become a monster to defeat the monsters. We’re to replace the controlling narrative of the death and resurrection of Jesus with a new narrative in which Jesus conquers and slaughters.
But do you not know that what makes Jesus glorious is the manner of his death? What makes him glorious is the fact that he did not lift up the sword even to save his own life – that the creative power of self-sacrificing love triumphed over the powers and principalities and overthrew the might of Caesar’s empire. THAT is what Paul means when he says the weakness of God is stronger than man, because the shame of the cross confounds the pride of religion and all the armies of this world.
And blessed are those who are not offended.
One thought on “God Will Not Become a Monster to Defeat the Monsters”
Good point Timothy. While I share your discomfort with those who focus on the temporal, “Messiah will set up kingdom on earth” instead of Christ’s humility, love, and sacrifice, I don’t think these two aspects of God are mutually exclusive. The same God both died for those who were his enemies and will judge in wrath and righteousness those who scorn his sacrifice. Without this, God is not truly righteous, and their violent, horrific deeds both go unnoticed and untouched. That’s not a more loving God, one that does not mind the wickedness of man:
“And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. 6 And it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. 7 And the Lord said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them.”
Later: And Noah builded an altar unto the Lord; and took of every clean beast, and of every clean fowl, and offered burnt offerings on the altar. 21 And the Lord smelled a sweet savour; and the Lord said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man’s sake; for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done. 22 While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.”
I think we have a combination of factors here. That God swears not to curse the ground (especially in regards to agriculture and the seasons of the year), he does so after smelling the sacrifice. I think this supports your view, Timothy. For if we consider the sacrifice as pointing to Christ, then we can say that God will not curse mankind for the sake of Christ. The destruction of the earth in the flood can be paralleled to the crucifixion of Christ, in their totality. “As all died in Adam, all are made alive in Christ” (paraphrase). This actually leads us to a semi-universalist view, if we make this parallel–at least in the sense that they are both judgments on man kind, though in the first case the recipients is all of mankind—except noah—while the second is the single Son of God.
But God’s later charge to Noah clarifies the reason for judgment: “Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.” While I don’t have the exact text, one hebrew scholar has noted that the construction of the Hebrew leads to a [abcDcba] pattern. The focus is on the shedding of blood. The construction of this passage, and its context, could lead us to the conclusion that the primary reason for the flood was the violence of mankind. How appropriate thus is the life of Christ! Who came not with a sword, but to bring peace to mankind. His kingdom is of this world, and we should not lood for it on earth but in the “hearts of man”. While the gospel does bring a sword to mankind, it is a spiritual division: “father from son, mother from daughter.” Thus to partially agree with you, I would say we should view these apoptalitic end time destruction as primarily spiritual destruction and violence, though physical is not out of the question. God must both be the judge and the justify. We dare not diminish his sacrifice, nor question his righteous judgements of the wickedness of man.