One aspect of life over which we assert no control whatsoever is the historical era in which we’re born. If you’re reading this, (and you’re less than 2000 years old), it’s a safe bet you’re aware of a certain Savior who died on a cross to secure our forgiveness. Even if you don’t believe it’s true, it’s likely you’ve at least heard of Jesus.
Yes, I’m stunningly adept at stating the obvious, but there is a point here. Imagine we were born before Jesus came and purchased our forgiveness. To again state the obvious, we wouldn’t have grown up with the knowledge of a Messiah through whom God created a way to be reunited with Him. We’d still be shouldering the burden of our own sin … with all the guilt, shame, fear and hopelessness that accompanies it. You’d think the overwhelming weight of this fact alone would be the point of this piece, but it’s not.
The point is this … God didn’t have to do it. In order to let that sink in, I’ll say it again … God did not have to send Jesus … the Messiah, the Savior, the light of the world, the Prince of Peace, the Lamb … of … God. It was a voluntary act … not a requirement, not compulsory, not an obligation … a choice. He could more easily have just left us alone … to our own devices … coping with our sin in whatever manner we invented. (I should just stop here, but no …)
See, we grew up in a time when it was always a fact … always a given … that God had sent His son to die for our sins. If you grew up in church, as I did, you heard it so repetitively that your ears grew virtually numb to it. I’ll sadly admit that I’ve heard my own thoughts whining like a spoiled teenager, “Yeah, I know, Jesus died for my sins. Tell me something I don’t know!” Have we been swimming in the deep end of the grace pool so long that we’ve become anesthetized to a staggering reality … so long that we’ve essentially adopted an entitlement mentality about this colossal truth? Have we grown immune to the magnitude of the simple fact that God did not have to send Jesus … to forgive us, to redeem us, to lift us out of the pit, to save us?
He chose this.
And to state the glaringly obvious yet again … if He chose to do this, then it only follows that He could have chosen … not to. Which begs the question, exactly what was God choosing when He sent His beloved to … us?
As I understand it, He knowingly chose to allow His son … His son … to leave his home in Heaven, (a place of absolute safety, security, harmony, comfort, love, purity, peace, glory, and abundance), and come to … us (floundering in a quagmire of greed, pride, gossip, lies, discord, addiction, murder, adultery, incest, politics, drunkenness, slavery, corruption, disease, theft, abuse, lust, hunger, war, and death) … a very dirty place filled with very dirty, very lost, very rebellious people … most of whom wanted very little to do with Jesus or his God.
Here’s a brief itinerary of the trip Jesus signed up for: he traded a throne in a palace for a manger in a barn; exchanged adoring angels for cows and sheep … (ala trading Buckingham Palace for a sewage-filled slum in Port-au-Prince); humbled himself in obedience to parents he himself created; subjected himself to earthly laws; took a job as a carpenter (a humble laborer … not a lofty priest or overseer); physically touched victims of the putrid disease of leprosy … (previously unheard of); washed the filthy feet of fishermen; fed the hungry; restored the hopelessly insane to right-mindedness (others simply shunned them); befriended hookers, adulterers, thieves, and foreigners (both male and female); endured constant harassment by arrogant detractors (whom he created); suffered the indignity of betrayal and public arrest via the sarcastic kiss of a supposed friend; endured bullying and mockery in an open trial; took punches in the face from soldiers he created; was spat upon repeatedly (anything more degrading than that?); was stripped naked in public and paraded through the streets like a prize; was whipped unrecognizable with a cat-of-nine-tails; scorned further with a crown … of thorns (likely pounded into his head to achieve deeper penetration); paraded again through the streets for more public taunting and spitting; and finally nailed to a tree … naked (subjecting a crucified criminal to the ultimate indignity of having to relieve himself in full view of the gathered masses, as he’d likely be suspended for 24 to 36 hours) until finally … mercifully … dead. This is the trip that God knowingly allowed His son to take … meaning that Jesus is not only the means by which we attain forgiveness … he’s also the assurance of God’s desire to give it in the first place. The very fact that God chose to send him is a staggering testimony to just how driven God is … to forgive.
So with this in mind, I ask two simple questions: 1. If God was not deterred, even by all of this … then just how much does He love you? 2. How badly does He yearn to forgive you? After all, to state one last obvious fact … He doesn’t have to. He never had to. And in another era, we’d totally “get” that.