More than a symbol

My faith is offensive. I sometimes wish we understood that more. What I believe is quite possibly the most offensive story this world has ever known. It is one of the ugliest, brutal, wrathful, violent, and painful stories that has ever been written. What I believe really is an offensive story.

It’s not too hard to realize this when you stop to think it over. It goes beyond believing a faith that says the world is wrong and everyone in it is deserving of eternal hell for their actions. The solution to the problem is offensive today. The solution was having God send down His only son to live a short life on earth that would result in one of the most gruesome ways to die that mankind has ever created. It was a death sentence that had the very purpose of torment, suffering, and pain for as long as possible before the last agonizing breath was taken. The solution was painted with blood. The solution was righteous judgment. It was a solution rooted in propitiation. It was a solution that required God to be appeased over our sin. It was a solution that was anything but free.

We often want to shy away from the offensiveness of the gospel. Even as believers we don’t want to escalate things too much. We shy away from the offensiveness of the gospel, because we don’t like the picture we get of God in those moments. What we see I God is a vengeful and vindictive God. Prone to a quick temper, harsh, and wrathful. We mistakenly see a God of hate and cruelty when we only look at the offensiveness of the gospel. We water things down in order to highlight God’s love and compassion. We say the crucifixion happened, but it was a symbol to show God’s love for us. We acknowledge there was a man nailed on the cross, but we refuse to really look at the brutality of it all. We limit the offensiveness and brutality of the cross in order to escalate the love of the cross. The truth is that diminishing the brutality also diminishes the love.

Let’s be brutally honest. The crucifixion feels like overkill. It is an event one would not even wish on their worst enemy. Why then would God feel our sin is deserving of such an act? Christ was not merely crucified, he was tortured. He received whippings that most other crucified victims would not receive before death. He was forced to carry his cross to his execution site facing the humiliation from the crowds. He felt each nail that pierced his flesh. He hung there on that cross gasping for breath. He would have to force himself upright in order to just get some air. Each time feeling those nail press against flesh and bone. He hung on the cross naked. There is a detail we rarely realize. Christ likely hung on that cross completely exposed. This was more than a symbol of love. This crucifixion was a necessity. Christ faced abandonment form God the father. Christ had taken on the sins of the world, and for that moment cried out to God over why He had forsaken him. We look at the brutality of the cross, and what we see is wrath.

That is not the whole of the story though. That wrath was intended for you and me. We were deserving of the pain and suffering. We are deserving of eternal torment in hell. We are deserving of God’s wrath. When we look at the brutality of that wrath, and realize we are spared form it then we become thoroughly overwhelmed at the full extent of God’s love.

God could not simply overlook our sin. He is too holy to simply write off our sin. Ignoring our sin and letting us into His kingdom anyway goes against His very nature. Sin is evil, and evil cannot even live in the presence of God. It was more than a symbol of love my friends. The crucifixion was a necessity. When I look at the brutality of the crucifixion I see just how much God loves me. He knew the solution that was needed. He was willing to pay the cost. This is why I shake my head at any who try and earn their way into heaven. Any who feel the crucifixion itself was not enough have not truly understood the brutality of the crucifixion. They fail to recognize its purpose.

God did not forgive us by dying for us. His death and resurrection are what made his forgiveness capable of sanctifying us. The debt needed to be paid. Christ’s brutal death made a way for me to live. Why would I ever want to diminish the love found in the gospel by diminishing the offensive nature of the gospel?

We are in the middle of Holy week. I will continue writing as this week progresses, but I have one simple challenge for you this week. Don’t turn a blind eye to the brutality found on the cross. For in this brutal death we find the greatest beauty, compassion, and dedication this world has ever known. It is the greatest love story the world has ever known, because it is the most brutal story the world has ever known.

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