Many Christians believe that God sent Jesus to be the sacrifice for our sin as human beings. The idea is that human beings are sinful. We cannot atone for that sin on our own. Nothing we can do is enough to make things right with God. So God sent Jesus to be the sacrifice that placates God for the sin of all humanity. Jesus pays the price that we cannot pay. And without that payment, humanity is consigned to eternal suffering and separation from God.
There are many problems with this construct. What about the story of Abraham and Isaac which is seen as God putting an end to human sacrifice? What about the testimony of the prophets in the Hebrew scriptures in which we are told that God does not want animal and grain sacrifices from humans but what God desires is our devotion to justice and compassion? What about the stories and teachings attributed to Jesus that completely undermine the image of God as an accountant or score keeper? And then there are all of the images and teachings that show us the generosity of God giving us far more than we could ever imagine. This just doesn’t seem like a God that would demand payment, compensation, restitution, or reparations.
In addition, this idea of paying God off must be mediated. If God needs to be appeased and Jesus made the sacrifice on our behalf this arrangement has to be overseen and implemented. Who is covered by this payment? How is it decided who qualifies to be saved under this arrangement? This gives the church an incredible amount of power. And the church is people. People who have to contend with self interest, and control issues, and the lure of power. This sacrifice for our sins concept has been used by the church to keep certain people within the good graces of God and to keep other people out of the good graces of God.
The payment for our sins arrangement is based on a God that is an account keeper. That has to be appeased. That wants the score settled. This system leads to people created in the image of that kind of God. People who keep accounts. People who expect to be appeased. People who want the score settled. That kind of model for humanity is absolutely at odds with the portrayal we have of Jesus in the New Testament and of God throughout the Bible.
God’s love is freely given and unconditional. We have only to accept it and let it have sway in our lives. And we will receive more that we could ever ask for or imagine.
Lectionary readings for today:
Prayer: May we accept that the Divine Love at the heart of reality has no strings attached. Amen.