“Forgiveness is about being a freedom fighter…”

Forgiveness, Quote

“I really believe that when someone else does us harm, we’re connected to that mistreatment like a chain. Because forgiveness is nothing less than an act of fidelity to an evil-combating campaign. So it’s not an act of niceness. It’s not being a doormat. It really to me is more badass than that. Maybe retaliation, or holding on to anger, about the harm done to me doesn’t actually combat evil. Maybe it feeds it.

Because in the end, if we’re not careful, we can actually absorb the worst of our enemy, and on some level, even start to become them. So what if forgiveness, rather than being like a pansy way of saying, it’s OK, is actually a way of wielding bolt-cutters and snapping the chain that links us? Like it is saying, what you did was so not OK that I refuse to be connected to it anymore.

Forgiveness is about being a freedom fighter, and free people are dangerous people. Free people aren’t controlled by the past. Free people laugh more than others. Free people see beauty where others do not. Free people are not easily offended. Free people are unafraid to speak truth to stupid. Free people are not chained to resentments.

That’s worth fighting for. There really is a light that shines in the darkness, and that the darkness cannot, will not, shall not overcome it.”

Nadia Bolz-Weber

Does God need to punish?

Atonement

Retributive punishment might be a deterrent, as punishment is by nature punitive. It might also make a victim feel better to know that the offender was punished. Yet, punishment seldom equals the actual loss occurred by a crime. Seizing a thefts assets might help replay his victims, but in the case of capital offense, the punishment of one person does not repay or restore heath and lost life.

Thus, when we are tempted to say or believe, “God needs to punish and kill” in order to forgive or provide us life, it’s like suggesting that killing an innocent person will bring your murdered family member back to life.

Real justice—true and greater justice—cannot be answered with death. It can only be answered with life. Real justice is not focused on ending the life of the violent, but with ending the cycle of violence and death. Retribution is not the path to life, redemption is.

So…Does God need to punish? No. Not to provide life.

 

*Related post: FORGIVENESS AS JUSTICE

 

Forgiveness isn’t weakness

Forgiveness, Quote

“Resurrection is the result of death’s defeat; forgiveness, the result of sin’s defeat. Those who learn to forgive discover that they are not only offering healing to others. They are receiving it in themselves. Resurrection is happening inside them. The wrong done to them is not permitted to twist their lives out of shape. Forgiveness isn’t weakness. It was and is a great strength. Resurrection and forgiveness together are vital for understanding the extraordinary and large-scale result of the victory won on the cross. The nations of the world were now set free to worship the one true God.”

― NT Wright, The Day the Revolution Began: Reconsidering the Meaning of Jesus’s Crucifixion

What happened on the Cross? And Why Does It Matter?

Atonement, Book Review

I just finished reading N.T. Wright’s new book The Day The Revolution Began. If you’re unfamiliar with N.T. Wright, he is the former Bishop of Durham and one of the premier New Testament Scholars. His newest book is a 416-page examination of the narrative, cultural, and theological purposes of Jesus’ crucifixion.

I wanted to share my summary of his basic conclusions concerning the Cross and what is traditionally regarded as Atonement Theology. I originally wrote this summary as a way to help me digest the book. However, this summary will benefit any looking for a deeper understanding of Jesus death.

I hope you enjoy…and I encourage you to pick up the book for yourself.

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Humans were made for the vocation of priests of God in creation (i.e. “image bearers’). Humanity rejected this vocation (a.k.a. sin), resulting in humanity giving it’s power to the people and realities we worshiped, both seen and unseen. These new ‘Powers’ enslave us, take us in exile from our original purpose, and ultimately destroy us in death.

The Kingdom of God was established by disarming the Powers on the cross through the ‘forgiveness of sin,’ thus freeing those held captive by these Powers (and reconciling us to God) to become fully functioning, fully image-bearing human beings within God’s world, already now, completely in the age to come.

If the enslaving Powers are to be overthrown, they cannot simply be outmatched force for force. If one force overcomes another, it is still force that wins. Thus, the Kingdom of God is established, overcoming and overthrowing the Powers, by, not the power of force, but the power of self-giving love.

If the enslaving Powers are to overthrown they must be robbed of the source of their power; and if the source of their power comes sin (i.e. human rejection of their vocation as priests through the worship of realities other than God), then when ‘sins are forgiven’, the Powers are robbed of their power. Thus, releasing people from their sin and from the effects of those sins is the means by which Christ is victorious over the Powers.

The ‘forgiveness of sin’ thus required one who could lead humanity out of exile, bringing justice to the covenant faithfulness of God (i.e. the promises of God to Israel, particularly that through Israel God would bless all nations), and cleanse the people from their guilt and shame. Enter Jesus. As the Messiah, Jesus is the representative of Israel, both the King and High Priest. Jesus takes on the full plight of the people’s exile; dying a rebels death for his rebellious people, though he himself was not a rebel; dying a slaves death for his enslaved people, though he himself was not a slave. As a result, Jesus’ self-sacrificial death reveals the covenant faithfulness of God, and provides passage home from exile for his people, via union with his death (and thereby his resurrection). His split blood, as the result of his death, was nothing less than the “blood of the covenant for the forgiveness of sins,” a sign that something new was coming into being.

The cruciform shape of the inauguration of the Kingdom of God, therefore implies a cruciform mission for its citizens

Forgiveness as Justice

Forgiveness

Forgiveness and justice seem incongruous. In fact, they are often treated as clashing forces. Justice demands balance and restitution. Forgiveness accepts imbalance and releases debt. Justice delivers fair judgement. Forgiveness extends mercy, grace, and kindness. Yet, when we treat forgiveness as something incongruous with justice, we display a fundamental misunderstanding of the Gospel and Jesus’ death on the cross.

In the world where the only assumed options to injustice are fight or flight (i.e. acceptance, avoidance, retribution, or retaliation). Jesus offers us a third-way; forgiveness. Forgiveness is a practice that is at the center of God’s mission in putting the world right. Forgiveness is not turning a blind eye to injustice. God forgives, not because he doesn’t care about injustice or sin, but precisely because he does care. God forgives because he refuses to let injustice and sin have the last word in the way the world is moving.  God plan is greater than fairness or balance. God’s plan is redemption, reconciliation, and the uniting of all things in Christ.

Forgiveness breaks the cycle of injustice and sin by denying the right to act upon its power to build walls between people or respond in kind toward the offender. Forgiveness denies the right to right to resentment or revenge and instead returns offense and injustice with blessing, compassion, kindness, and benevolence. Forgiveness is central to how God is working to put the world right.

God’s Justice

Atonement, Quote

“God’s justice is not simply a blind dispensing of rewards for the virtuous and punishments for the wicked, though plenty of those are to be found on the way. God’s justice is a saving, healing, restorative justice, because the God to whom justice belongs is the Creator God who has yet to complete his original plan for creation and whose justice is designed not simply to restore balance to a world out of kilter but to bring to glorious completion and fruition the creation, teeming with life and possibility, that he made in the first place.” NT Wright, Evil and the Justice of God