You lived in this world without God and without hope. But now you have been united with Christ Jesus. Once you were far away from God, but now you have been brought near to him through the blood of Christ. For Christ himself has brought peace to us.
Now all of us can come to the Father through the same Holy Spirit because of what Christ has done for us (Ephesians 2.12b-14a, 18).New living testament (NLT)
The last two days we have looked at the hard topic of Sin and Evil (those outside, hostile powers that enslave and dehumanize us) and what a loving and just God is doing about it all. We all know in our bones that justice denied is a bad thing. When we read stories of a man throwing a 5 year old child off a balcony for no apparent reason, when we read of cars plowing into crowds of people to injure and kill them, when we see abuse and exploitation and cruelty of all kinds—symptoms of the reality of Sin and Evil and our slavery to them—we say to ourselves and others that something must be done about it all. Something or someone has to step in and make things right. We all demand justice.
The problem comes when we consider what God is doing to bring about justice for us and our sins. It’s a problem because we are all sin-sick to some degree and if a good and righteous God executes his justice on the world so that it can be healed and restored to its original goodness—the overarching story of Scripture and the promise of new creation—we too will be swept away because all of us are a mixture of good and evil.
But as we saw yesterday, it is the Father’s intent that we should live, not die. As the Supreme Lover of his creation and creatures, God the Father desires good for us, not evil. Destroying us in his just judgment doesn’t exactly accomplish that, does it?
God did not create us to destroy us.
So God moved to condemn our sin and break our slavery to Sin’s power by bearing his own judgment. That’s why the cross is our only hope for a future of abundant living. This is what St. Paul is getting at in our passage above. As we have seen, we are incapable of freeing ourselves from our slavery to the power of Sin and therefore have no hope of living in the presence of a good and holy God. The history of Israel is living testimony to this truth. It is a dangerous thing for humans to be near the presence of the living God! So God moved to reconcile us to himself by taking care of the essential problem of Sin.
What can get lost in this discussion, however, is the love of God.
God became human to die for us so that he could draw us to himself and have mercy on us. As St. Paul wrote to the Romans, while we were still God’s enemies, utterly helpless to extricate ourselves from our slavery to Sin’s power, at just the right time God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us to spare us from God’s condemnation that results in our death (Romans 5.6-11). This is essential for us to comprehend if we are to approach Christ’s cross this Good Friday with hope and thanksgiving. The cross is our only hope for rescue and it ultimately is the greatest of all signs that God loves us more than we love ourselves.
Many of us mourn our sins. We lament those things that we have done and wish we could take back. We mourn over those we have hurt or wronged, some of which can never be addressed for various reasons. We mourn those missed opportunities and our failure to act and our failure of will, and we fear God can never forgive us because we have a hard time forgiving ourselves. Of course our sins are all deeply grievous to us and to our loving God. But God has given us a way forward in the cross of Christ. The cross proclaims that while our sins matter to God, God’s love for us is greater than our hostility toward God. It is greater than our pride and arrogance and selfishness and all the rest. Because Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scripture, we are reconciled to God and find peace with God if we have faith to believe God has done this for us on the cross of Christ. Being reconciled to God and having peace with him, something we all crave whether we are aware of it or not, cost us very little. It cost God everything. There is no angry and merciless judge to be found here.
It we don’t understand this, if we fail to see God’s great love for us poured out in Christ’s blood or we convince ourselves that all wasn’t necessary because we really aren’t that bad, we will never find the peace and forgiveness and healing we all seek. Humans matter to God. He created us to be his wise stewards over his creation. God has demonstrated his great love for us by giving himself to us and sparing us being condemned to death.
No one is outside the love and mercy of God (unless they choose to be). No one.
As we prepare to enter the holy Triduum of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday, let us come with a thankful heart for the Father’s love for us, unworthy as we are. Our praise and thanksgiving cannot be far behind if we really believe this astonishing truth.