How can a human being ever be at one with God? How can we know God? Understand God? Respond to God? What do we have to do and how can we be sure that we are doing every thing necessary exactly right?
For several weeks I have been writing about the different historical theories of atonement. Although they vary at different points, they all have agreement that Jesus' death on the cross was crucial to the process and that somehow that horrible execution, which was a common destiny for thousands of Jews in the Roman Empire, made it possible for humanity to be forgiven of their sin and reconciled to a God who would otherwise shut them all out. This holy God had zero tolerence for sin and would only be appeased if a sacrifice, substitution, something was done. Then it would be up to all people to trust that process. But what if a person didn't get the "trusting" part right?
If Jesus lived only so he could die for human sin, then why did he spend all that time (one to three years, depending on who you believe)teaching, preaching, healing, and eating with sinners. If his sole purpose was to die, all he would have had to do would be to march into downtown Jerusalem and say in a very loud voice, "God is God and Caesar is not." If he said that enough times, the Romans would have obliged him and had him cruxed in short order.
I don't buy it. Any of it. Haven't for a long time. And, for me, it all comes back to the question I posed in the first description, "What does this say about the character of your God?" Why in the world does the God of all ages have to turn into a blood-thirsty monster to show us how much we are loved? If this is really how God is known, then I am going to have a difficult time worshipping this God. In fact, I won't.
One word expresses it all for me. Instead of Jesus being a substitute or sacrifice or something else, I am invited to be a participant. In other words, you and I and everybody else are already in, we are already at one with God. God's very reign on earth is a present reality and we are invited to participate in the reign of God as it unfolds. God is love. God defines love; love does not define God. This love receives us without any proposition and expresses itself in the most beautiful reality known to humankind, namely grace. This grace says we are invited and included in God's way and there is nothing that anyone, including Jesus, has to do to make it possible. It just is.
For me, that is good news. And I yearn to understand more of how I can participate.
Next blog, I look at how I believe Jesus viewed this whole matter.