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Substitutionary atonement

Friday, March 10, 2006

Matthew 5:20-22

From Jesus' "Sermon on the Mount":

"For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.

"You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.

"But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment."

The whole thing about becoming a better human being is knowing how bad I am, using tools like forgiveness and responsibility to face that fact, and then growing in goodness. There may be limits to that goodness, but I do the best I can.

Jesus tells me that's not enough. I can't just grow in goodness; I have to get it right Right RIGHT. Later in this chapter he tells me to be perfect like God is perfect. Here he says I can't be angry. The standard he sets is unreachable.

Thanks a lot.

What I do have to thank Jesus for is more than moral guidance, more than setting a standard of behavior for me. He restores me to life with God by atoning for my sin. His sinlessness replaces my sin. God sees him when he looks at me. God the Father and Jesus are one (John 10:30) ... and as I participate in Jesus' death and resurrection with my acceptance and surrender, Jesus and I are one.

Of course now I'm trying to describe a supernatural event. My words come up short, as have those of Anselm, Augustine, Calvin, Arminius and John Wesley, among many. This "atonement" is the central truth of Christianity. Atonement is what makes Christianity the religion that frees men and women to return wholly and completely to God, to be restored to the place he intended for them in the first place.

Rather than talk about this I just want to get into a relationship with Jesus that's in the foreground of my life. When I do get angry, I want to imagine being one with Jesus. If I'm wearing my WWJD wristband or not, I can ask him what he'd do. Or just let him do it.

I think that I'll not only manage to be much less angry, but fall in love with God at the same time. And that sounds like the kingdom of heaven right here, right now.

Father thank you for coming here in the person of Jesus. Thank you for showing me freedom and letting me choose it. Thank you for making me whole again.

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