Chpt. 7, Sin and Redemption (abbrev.)
R: You ignore the key aspect of God’s love, which is that he gave his only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, that we should be redeemed from sin and have life everlasting. That is God’s greatest gift to us.
P: That’s right. I’ve heard that before and was always a bit puzzled. I’m glad I have you here, because there seems to be a lot to this and I’m sure you can help me out.
Leaving out the “begotten” part for a bit, your point is that Yahweh let humans kill his child, right? I mean, Jesus could’ve worked a miracle and escaped from the Romans. Turned the door of his cell into wine and let it drain away. Did Yahweh make him forget how to do miracles?
R: You come up with the most ridiculous, pedestrian suggestions. Jesus submitted himself to the will of God!
P: Ok, so basically Yahweh talked Jesus into it. “Kid, you gotta do something for me. It’s gonna hurt for a little bit, but it’ll all work out ok. Trust me…”
R: Yes, despite the flippant way you put it. Jesus was a willing sacrifice, accepting of His Father’s will.
P: So Yahweh had this planned out all along, then? “All right, I’m going to have a human child, and I’ll make sure he really pisses people off so they’ll kill him.” That seems kind of cold. You know, like having your kid in 4H raise a lamb just so that (unbeknownst to her) you can slaughter it—so your kid learns where lamb chops come from. Except in this case, the kid’s also the lamb. Anyway, thanks dad.
R: Kids are baby goats, lambs are baby sheep. But in this case, the lamb analogy is perfect. Jesus is spoken of as the Lamb of God, a metaphorical lamb who was sacrificed, just as the ancient Hebrews sacrificed real lambs.
P: But the ancient Hebrew lambs really died. And isn’t Jesus actually Yahweh? How can an eternal being die?
R: That’s the point of the Trinity. Jesus is of God but is distinct from God.
P: Oh, I get it! Just like in the movie Avatar. The avatars are alien bodies raised by humans to be animated by a human mind. They can run around Pandora, pretending to be one of the Na’vi people, but when the avatar gets hurt or killed the humans just wake up in that box-thing that transfers their mind. Jesus is an avatar of Yahweh! When he’s killed, the mind-connection to Yahweh breaks and the avatar is dead but Yahweh’s just fine. And of course it can magically rebuild the avatar whenever it wants.
R: Your gift for bizarre but arguably accurate metaphor is uncanny.
P: Well, many religions have their gods take on human avatars—that’s where the movie term came from, after all. All right. I’m with you, I’m with you. Even if an avatar can’t really die, the human animating it still feels the dying, and it still represents the loss of a lot of time and effort, so I guess it’s fair to say it represents some sort of sacrifice on Yahweh’s part.
R: Will wonders never cease? You’re not disputing everything I say?
P: I haven’t disputed anything. Like I said, I’m just trying to understand what you believe. Sometimes I ask questions and sometimes I float analogies your way that might help me understand. I’m not debating you or anything.
Now, I think I get the “sacrifice” on Yahweh’s part—at least the fact that it’s giving something up. But what’s that got to do with me? I mean people in general, not just me.
R: The point is that Jesus died for our sins. To redeem us. And so that through His resurrection we should believe in Him and have life everlasting. I just told you all that.
P: Now here’s where my metaphor generator fails me. Help me connect the dots. You’re saying Jesus’ death has something to do with my sin, right?
R: It has everything to do with your sins.
P: Ok. Like what? Let’s say I’ve committed a sin…
R: Not a hypothetical assumption, I’d say.
P: Unfortunately not, but to protect my fragile ego, let’s use a hypothetical sin. Say I cheated on my wife with Anne Hathaway. That would be a sin, right?
R: As you well know.
P: Right. So what’s the connection between my regrettably hypothetical liaison with Anne and Yahweh letting his avatar, I mean “son,” die?
R: Jesus is accepting the punishment for your, and all mankind’s, sins.
P: So Jesus tricks Yahweh into thinking that Jesus had the affair and not me, so I get off the hook? Like the guy in that old Dickens book about the French Revolution who takes the place of somebody who was going to be guillotined? That would be pretty big of Jesus, I have to admit. But can you really fool Yahweh? I mean, it’s one thing to fool a couple of French prison guards, but you did say Yahweh was omniscient, right? And even if it wasn’t, that would be a pretty big whopper for even a god of normal intelligence to believe, especially if there were lots of incriminating text messages with my name on them.
R: No! Jesus doesn’t trick God!
P: But then if Yahweh knows I committed the sin, and not Jesus, how does punishing Jesus help me out? Especially if I wasn’t sorry for having the affair.
R: No, you have to be sorry. God cannot forgive the unrepentant sinner.
P: Ok, that makes sense, I at least have to be sorry. But now, if I’m sorry, truly and honestly sorry, and ask for forgiveness, what does Jesus’ dying add to that? Take my affair with Anne Hathaway. Say Mrs. P found out and was really, really mad. Then I tell her that I’m really, really sorry and won’t do it again. But that doesn’t cut it. She’s still mad. Then say that you come up and tell Mrs. P “I know P did a bad thing. Go ahead and punish me for what he did—kill me even.” Then the first thing she’ll say is, “Did you have something to do with this?” and she’ll have this look in her eye like…never mind, just pray you don’t ever see it. Anyway, you’ll say, “Well, no.” And she’ll say, “I’ll punish you if you don’t get out of here with that crap! You’re not going to get P off the hook like that, for darn sure.” So if punishing you wouldn’t help me out, how does punishing Jesus?
R: Jesus’s death and resurrection are a symbol of God’s love and evidence of His promise of eternal life. If God loves us so much that He would sacrifice His Son, He clearly loves us enough to forgive our sins.
P: So that’s the best way Yahweh can think of to show its love? Might the ancient Hebrews not have preferred, say getting a toothache cured or a broken leg healed as evidence of Yahweh’s concern? Well, we’ve covered that ground already, and I must say, I’m still baffled by the concept of someone dying for someone else’s sins. But if that’s the best you can do…
Oh, before I forget. You mentioned Jesus resurrection. That’s where Jesus comes back to life after being killed, right?