Thursday, March 24, 2016

Jesus didn't come to die

I do not believe Jesus died for our sins.

For many of you, that may be a shocking statement. Bear with me.

I find no sufficient evidence to support substitutionary atonement. Believing in it allows us to let humanity off the hook for killing him, allows us to feel something other than anger and guilt.

Last year on Good Friday I couldn’t help but make the connection between Jesus’s crucifixion and the many murders of black and brown people in America that had taken place in the last year, the many court cases ending in “no indictment.” I posted this sermon by Sara Miles, author of Take This Bread, as a poignant vocalization of many of my feelings. It's worth the read.

This year I’m thinking of the revolutions around the world including #BlackLivesMatter in America and #RhodesMustFall in South Africa. I’m thinking of the treatment protesters receive:  the tear gas, rubber bullets, brutal beatings, and illegal arrests. I’m thinking of all the terrorists attacks and how they only make headlines when white people die. I’m thinking of politics in America and what those at the margins - refugees, immigrants, POC, queers - have at stake. And I weep as Jesus wept.

Jesus came to live. He came to be the hands and feet of God. He came to show us a better way and to free us from our dogma. Jesus was killed because he posed a threat to those in power. He was killed because he stood up for the marginalized, because he dared to challenge the status quo, because he believed in a better way. He got angry, he yelled, and he flipped tables. He rolled with “the wrong crowd.” He was dirty and homeless. We would kill him all over again. We kill people everyday for reminding us of him, for refusing to silently accept the way things are as the way they must be.

By insisting that Jesus came to die, we are like Pilate washing the blood off our hands, claiming it had to be this way, that it was God’s will. No indictment. Not guilty. We are guilty. We had divinity walking among us, and we killed him because he didn’t say what we wanted to hear.

There is nothing inherently good about Good Friday. The good news is that Jesus came to free us from our sin - not through his death but through his life. The good news is that he forgave those who killed him. The good news is that he believed humanity is worth saving, that we are capable of more. The good news is the hope that comes with Easter morning - the persistent hope that love can triumph in the end. This is the hope that keeps me going when I am overwhelmed by oppressive systems, pervasive inequality, and the complicity of myself and others.

This Good Friday don’t wash the blood off your hands. Let's honor Jesus’s life by continuing his work in the world, holding out that radical bit of Easter hope that in the battle between competing forces - in the world and in our own hearts - love will win.

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