Friday, April 6, 2012

Why Did Jesus Die? Part 6

Ordinary Brutality

Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by?
Look and see if there be any sorrow like my sorrow..

Today is a day of quite ordinary brutality. A man is dragged through the streets of a city, then impaled on an instrument of torture until he’s dead. This sort of thing happens all the time, every day, somewhere in the world.

I used to weep for Jesus, but now I weep for the world, for all the victims of ordinary brutality. If we “look and see” we must look in two directions: to the Crucified one, and to the world’s brutalities, both overt and subtle, that find their deep meeting-place in him.

I dare hope that my tears are somehow part of Jesus’ own tears for the same world which he loved; that they are even connected with God’s own tears for the dark despoilation of soil and souls, of forest and family in this still glorious creation, full of so much good.

How can anyone who believes that the creation is fundamentally good not recognize the insidious power of evil that arises from, and through the human heart to misuse earth and its creatures in destructively self-aggrandizing ways? How can anyone who believes that human beings are made in the image of a great Goodness not realize that the seeds of that goodness—our capacities for love, generosity, mutuality, cleverness, creativity and assertiveness—can grow up in crooked ways that blur and twist that image into sinister patterns?

Good Friday unmasks the face of the world and of our human nature, such an organic part of creation—a face dark with ugliness and evil as well as radiant with goodness and beauty.

There is a deep strand of Christian piety that would, perhaps inadvertantly, isolate Jesus’ suffering as some magical transaction between God and Jesus that floats above the world, “saving” it in some hidden metaphysical sense. I do not deny any truth that may be in metaphysical musings, but for me the story of Christ’s suffering points out in all directions to the ordinary brutalities and injustices of the world. His Way of responding to this brutality is not his special possession, but an open path and power for those who would inhabit this world redemptively.

Our salvation comes not simply and solely from Christ dying on the cross, but from the way Christ died, which is of one piece with the way he lived. This is a way he “opens for us in his flesh” and draws us into participation in it through the Spirit. Thus the life-blood of his own Way, his very Spirit, begins to circulate through us for the healing not only of the world, but of our own divided souls.

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