Love: as simple as it gets
by Mindy Kiker
Everything in the Christian life pivots on the events we celebrate this time of year. Jesus was born, lived a sinless life, and offered Himself as a perfect sacrifice to set us free. Am I the only one who feels uncomfortable that Jesus had to suffer torture, scourging, mocking, and finally a slow, brutal death?
Why couldn’t He destroy the grip of sin and death with some fire power? I personally like Peter’s approach, when he hauled out his sword to defend his Messiah and cut off the soldier’s ear. All of me cries out, “Yeah, Baby, don’t let them take you without a fight!”
Can you tell that God’s ways are not my ways? If I were designing the redemption of humanity, I would have sent Jesus to earth to create His kingdom through a political revolution. Wouldn’t it have been impressive to lead a fiery revolt against all the other nations of the world and establish a physical kingdom for God’s chosen people?
This story sounds more spectacular than hanging on a cross. Not to mention that it would have been a lot less painful. Just imagine the hosts of heaven descending to wage war against the diabolical oppressors. Revenge would have been more satisfying than sacrifice, at least in my humble opinion.
But here it is again: God’s ways are not our ways. How difficult it is to see that the whole of history, the whole of creation, the whole universe is hanging not on raw power but on love.
The simplicity of the gospel is shown through a profound realization — that Jesus’ death and resurrection, His ultimate sacrifice, all His pain and agony were motivated by love:
“This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.” I John 4:9
Here is it — at least in part — an explanation of why God did not send Jesus as a political reformer. He was not trying to wrestle humanity into a kingdom made by hands, but instead He wanted to restore us to intimacy with Him. He wanted to destroy the darkness of sin that entered at the Garden of Eden and created a chasm between our hearts and His.
His goal was fundamentally to alter the playing field once and for all. His desire was to crush the power of sin and death so that no one should perish (2 Peter 3:9). His sacrifice made the way once and for all for everyone to receive new life simply by believing in Jesus (John 3:16).
Jesus’ death removed all barriers that would keep us from being drawn deeper into His heart of love. He desires that we respond by allowing His new life to grow within us. Just as Paul wrote to the Ephesians, paraphrased by Peterson, a prayer from my heart to yours:
“I ask him to strengthen you by his Spirit—not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength—that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite him in. And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you’ll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:15-19, The Message)