October 24, 2012

I have been reading some commentaries on Christian life, published by Friends United Meeting under the title of “Forty Days of Prayer.” It contains inspiring passages about following Jesus. It speaks of “the faith, joy, freedom, focus, power, and mysteries that come from being with him in deeper spiritual waters.”

But there are also passages that trouble me. “Forgiveness and freedom come from the shedding of blood …. The Bible says blood is God’s currency for the payment of sin.”

In the most recent issue of the magazine TIKKUN, Lawrence Swaim, the executive director of the Interfaith Freedom Foundation, writes :”There is at the heart of Christianity a disturbing doctrine that has the uncanny ability to overwhelm cognition, and—when internalized by the believer—the ability to traumatize. I refer to the belief, held by most Christians, that Jesus Christ, the prophetic figure of Christianity, was crucified to redeem the world, and that this plan originated with God.” Swaim argues that the cross should no longer be the central symbol of Christianity.

Both Swaim and the author of Forty Days of Prayer look only at the crucifixion and the ideas that came after – rather than looking at the teachings of Jesus.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: (Matthew 6:14).” Then on the cross, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do (Luke 23:34).” It is this act of radical forgiveness, not the shedding of blood, that is the redemptive and transformative power of the cross. The forgiveness comes from that of God within Jesus. When we find that of God within ourselves, we find our capacity to forgive; and we become part of God’s plan of redemption.

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