1 John 2:5 says that the one who keeps the Word of God, in him is the love of God perfected. 4:12 says that if we love one another, the love of God is perfected. I could make the point that loving one another is equivalent to keeping the Word of God. But, there’s another aspect that stands out to me.
The path to a perfect love is accomplished in us by action.
No, we do not make it happen, but it is the path on which we walk that God uses to finish the work on our love. God’s work in us is not a spectator sport; He wants us off the bench and in the game. He doesn’t want us in the audience; He wants us on the stage. But is that fact lacking in our common doctrine?
I’ve been listening to Christian music for almost a month now–I just couldn’t listen to anymore political talkshows. Too frustrating. I’m listening and I keep hearing how important the cross is. Whole songs about the cross. Are these songs about bisecting beams of wood? No, it’s about Messiah’s sacrifice. Ok, I’m on board with that. But then I hear the radio hosts telling people over and over, “You don’t have to do anything. Jesus did it all!”
Now before, you run away. I’m not degrading that sacrifice. Yeshua’s death on the cross was a pivotal point in God’s plan.
Whoa, whoa!?!?! ‘A’?!?!
Was Yeshua the only one to die on the cross that day? No. Not the only one, and he wouldn’t be the first or last to die by crucifixion. Was He the first or only person to have a sham trial and be put to death for wrong reasons? Again, no. Was He the first or only person to die for someone else? Again, no.
What makes Yeshua’s death a big deal was who He was and the life that took him to the cross. The cross itself is meaningless without His life. The only one who never needed to die, choosing to die for the very people putting Him to death at His Father’s will, trusting that the Father would also bring Him back.
The event of the cross is great for many reasons. It showed Yeshua really died for us, which means His ressurection really was returning from death. Also, He really went all the way. He really trusted the Father for our salvation and His. It told us how seriously God took sin. Most importantly, it told us God was absolutely committed to our redemption, absolutely committed to His promises. What a relief! How many thousands of years was God’s people waiting for the Messiah? God had not forgotten. God had not been unable. God had not stopped caring.
But if the cross was the most important thing ever, why wasn’t it the first and last thing He told His disciples? Instead what does His ministry teaching? Repent (change what you are doing/thinking/believing). His ministry begins just jumping into telling us what we need to do. He did not come saying “The Kingdom of God is come, everything is done! Yay, God did it!” It’s both “The Kingdom is come [God’s work], repent [your work].” What did the Sermon on the Mount talk about? It was not “Have faith! Just believe! God took care of it all!” In all His teachings there is the underlying assumption that God is working and at the base of your action is trusting God, but all those these are designed to lead you to action!
Even the allusion to the cross doesn’t appear until Matthew 10:38, sometime after he already had crowds following him. Consider how long were His disciples with Him before Mark 8:32 when He begins to tell them of how the Messiah must suffer, be rejected, killed, and then rise again.
If the whole point of Yeshua’s coming was the cross then what do we make of the 30+ years He spent not getting crucified? If simple mental faith was the point what other doctrine did He need to preach? Why tell us about forgiving others so we will be forgiven? Having compassion as the Father has compassion? Giving like the widow? Being faithful to our wives? Praying always?
What was it all for if the cross was the point?
There’s an atheist jabs at Christianity, that goes something like “Wait, the omnipotent God of the universe creates flawed people, then blames them when they make mistakes, and instead of forgiving them sets out to impregnant a teenage girl so she can have his son to die a horrible death?” If the point is simply forgiveness (symbolized in the cross) why doesn’t God do it that way?
Another problem is there are plenty of other religions about gods dying and being ressurrected. Osiris, Tammuz, to name a few promising eternal life and or the saving of the world. Now sure, these can be seen as counterfeits or even corrupted understandings of the truth handed down from Adam and Eve. But in a counterfeit some part of the truth is missing. The house of Israel made a counterfeit of religion that embodied God’s own work in Egypt and God did not smile on it. But these pagan myths seem to be awfully close, unless . . .
God had more in mind then fixing external problems like our sin account with Him and death. And if you read Genesis (again it all goes back to the beginning) then what did God do after they couple sinned? He kicked them out of Eden, why? So that they would not eat of the Tree of Life and live forever.
It’s not a far leap to see God did not want them living forever as they were. Simply living is not the point. Eternal life without changing is something God determined to avoid. And that is the key difference between the dying-god myth and the genuine. God is not trying to save the world from destruction. He is not trying to save the world from His own wrath. Both of those fates are predicated upon out needing to be destroyed. What God is trying to save is us. What God is trying to redeem is us. What God is changing is us.
Does that involve the cross? Certainly. Does that need Messiah’s work? Absolutely, but apparently the only way to fix something with freewill is to get it to work with you. And that is marvelous!
I understand that when we’re at the bottom of the barrel, when we feel beyond forgiveness, we do need to hear that. That God is ready and willing to save us from wherever we are, but stop telling me about the professor who took the test for his students (I would have rejected that guys offer too, its insulting to everything that I went to school for!).
See, God made Adam and Eve to work. He gave us missions. Why did God send His people into battle when He could just have made their enemies cease to exist? Because God created us to act! Every command God gave is a call to action!
God doesn’t want to fight the quest for you. He fights the part you cannot so that you can fight with him in the parts you can. He found you in your quest with the legions of orcs cornering you in the deepest darkest dungeon and he gives you a shield, and a sword, and a helmet, and a belt, and shoes. He armed you for war not so you could sit it out “because it’s all done” but so you could stand the battle.
It’s no wonder that we tell our fellow Christians “Jesus did it all” and then so many “Christians” are in the world and yet the world sees them no differently. You told them its done, so they sat down. Get off your butt, the story isn’t over. The battle is not over. Jesus did not do it all, He only did what you were not able to do.