Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Reflections (13)

Christians have drawn on a number of images over the years to get at the significance of Jesus' death on the cross. Unlike Christian beliefs about Jesus, the church never settled on just one picture. He satisfied God's anger. He took our place. He showed us God's love and how to obey. He defeated the evil powers that rule this age. These are all lenses through which Christians at different times have explained what Jesus did on the cross. All of them have truth to them.

But the image that I think might speak most to our current age is reconciliation. In a broken world where AIDS has left thousands of orphans in Africa, we understand the longing for a father. In an America where a child is as likely to grow up in a broken home than in one where your parents have been together your whole life, we understand alienation and distance. We understand brokenness and the need for reconciliation. Some of the images Christians have used throughout the centuries may have strong features of other times--how many of us have ever seen a sacrifice? But we "get" alienation and the need for reconciliation.

Atonement is reconciliation that takes place because of some sacrifice, some offering. God himself made the sacrifice. Jesus gave himself as the offering so that we might be reconciled to God (cf. 2 Cor. 5:18-19). The righteousness of God in Romans is God's propensity to reach out and rescue his people and, indeed, the world. In a world of profound alienation, this message still rings out as immensely good news!


Anonymous said...

“Accordingly, the picture of God's anger is probably much more to help our understanding than a literal picture of God.”

I don't think the sum total of all us working together for a lifetime could do an adequate job of describing God's Love for the human race and what God actually accomplished with the cross. This is the stuff that takes your breath away. Psalm 107 is my favorite singular effort but even here it falls short of the mark.
I append this thought, (theologically), that God's love and grace looses something in the translation if it is not nestled down in complete context. And part of that context is the actual (not imagined) lostness of the human race. “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of an angry God”.
I can't remember the last time I preached on the subject of hell and/or the issue of eternal damnation as a main subject or even sub point. But I have preached on God's love so enthusiastically throughout my life to date it seems like forever and I still haven't got it all said.
It would be unfortunate however if somehow in our enthusiasm in making sure God’s love gets a proper hearing we succumb to cherry picking contextal issues and not use all of it.
Evangelism would surely suffer in this instance and there is a real danger good folk ccould actually be fooled into thinking Universalists got it right. (They didn't get it right, did they Dr. Schenck)?

(P.S. Am I taking you out of context?" My remarks do wade quite a distance from shore.)

Ken Schenck said...

I am no universalist. I do not believe there will be any eternal reward or second recourse after death for those who have not responded to the light God has given them. At the same time, I also find the nature of eternal condemnation far from obvious in the biblical witness. Most of the judgment language in the NT has to do with the living and the little that relates to the dead is filled with highly symbolic imagery from Jewish apocalyptic.

Torey said...

"Unlike Christian beliefs about Jesus, the church never settled on just one picture."I can really relate to that quote from personal experience.