Monday, 27 September 2010
The Cross - All for Nothing?
One explanation about how Jesus’ death brings salvation dates from the middle ages. It’s called Satisfaction Theory and is based upon old mediaeval ideas of honour.
It goes like this: We have offended God’s honour and this demands that recompense (satisfaction) be made. Sadly, we can't meet the demands of God’s infinite honour, so we can never pay the debt of honour. Fortunately, Jesus voluntarily offers his perfect, sinless life to God as restitution. This makes the offer of his life an infinite recompense, and so God’s honour is duly satisfied.
The biggest problem with satisfaction theory is that it makes sin out to be God’s problem, not ours. God is all grumpy because we have upset him and only the death of his son will make him feel better. It God's attitude to us that changes, not the other way around. Looked at this way, it’s actually a compensation theory, and makes you wonder whether God would have been better off going to Injury Lawers 4U instead.
So should we abandon it altogether? Personally, I don’t think so. I think we have been guilty of taking far too literally Jesus’ words, “The Son of Man came... to give his life as a ransom for many” Mk 10:45. We get all knotted up with questions about who paid what to whom and why, and forget that there is another point to be made.
Whatever else happened on the cross, however it ‘worked’ for us, the result from our point of view is that we now owe God an impossibly huge (infinite) debt. It’s a debt for which God expects absolutely nothing in return, because it is a debt to love from which we have received all the wealth of God’s grace.
It’s a very contemporary message. There are thousands of students and others with massive loans and maxed out credit cards who know what indebtedness feels like – especially if they have been bailed out by a benefactor.
Let me put it another way, in the form of a devotional poem:
My soul’s mortgaged,
Banked by the vaults of divine love.
And yet I’ve found a greater freedom
Than could ever be bought by all the stores of human wealth.
This bond holds me captive in the treasury of God,
Obliged to enjoy all the stores of heaven.
There is no exemption,
No clause through which I may escape the purse of Grace.
I must lay aside all:
My broken things,
My poor things,
My feeble things,
My useless things,
And be abandoned to the generosity of God.
In debt, without debt.
Owing all and owning nothing.
I am the richest person on earth.