A LETTER TO A FRIEND

"The Gospel: the word conjures up all sorts of stereotypical cultural imagery, so let's use another:
Good News. This is what Jesus was to the Jews. Good News. They had laws that told them how to be good. They had the promises that: if they followed these laws they would, as all fairy tales tell us, live happily ever after. Trouble is, they could not consistently fulfill these laws, In fact, the more that they tried, the more they realised the futility of it all. Sounds familiar, doesn't it?
Jesus comes and says the opposite of the law's "Blessed are the disciplined". Jesus says: "Blessed are the spiritually impoverished". The failures. Those who will never make the grade. The rejected and outcasts who have given up. The very one's who have a "past" that won't go away, and a future that is destined to repeat the same mistakes. Why are these ones blessed. They feel cursed. In fact, according to the law, they are. But, they know that unless God shows them a better way, they are condemned by the past, condemned by their inability's and condemned by their very nature. Jesus comes to these and pronounces a blessing that overrides the curses of their broken laws with a simple truth. God came to complete the law in us. Wherever we are deficient, at whatever point the law condemns us, Jesus justifies. Eventually we come to the damning conclusion that we have been condemned by the whole law, not just part of it. We were never righteous at all. We have always needed saving, because our own sense of self righteous morality was just a messy pool of crap in the eyes of absolute perfection. Our greatest sin is not where we go wrong. It is in our absurd belief that we have ever got anything right!
When we get to that point, we have no other choice than to accept one of two options. Was Jesus words on the cross: "Father forgive them for they haven't got a clue", conditional or unconditional.
Jesus came to show us God. His whole work in this "revealing" is summed up in this simple prayer from the cross.
Who do we now chose to believe God is?
Do we take the "word" and let it be remade into the flesh of Jesus, praying forgiveness over a crowd that responded with a spear through his side so that he would not profane the Sabbath, or, do we again put God back into one of the "boxes" that we religiously hope that he lives in. Do we turn the unconditional life of Jesus back into the conditionality of words that bring death.
The Good News is that Jesus has swept aside our rules, our laws, our self righteous deeds of morality and our acts of redemption. He sentences all mankind to death...and then takes out the sentence on himself. There is no other way, Justice must be done. We are horribly and unremittingly bad. Our final acts of self righteous preservation are our decisions as to the identity of God himself. We make that decision for all mankind. We accept who and what we now decide is godly and we reject the rest. Where does this lead us. We hammer nails through grace, crying out the name Barrabus! When we can't receive the grace that Jesus has so clearly given us, we choose the law, and we nail grace to a cross, again and again and again. What is Jesus' continual response to this. Is he angry and frustrated by our weakness and obstinacy. No. He came to reveal the character of God once and for all and so he simply prays again on our behalf. He rises, supporting himself on the fresh set of nails that we have again driven through his gracious flesh and cries" "Forgiveness". This forgiveness is not a result or a response to anything that we have or ever will do. It is God's response to his own nature. He is forgiving. He is gracious. He is merciful. He is love. He is life. There is no death in him. Never, ever.
The Good news is God does not respond to us. He responds to himself. We then can accept it or reject it. Nothing more. The rest of life is a response that is worked through us to all mankind. We can't judge because we have already been judged. We can't justify anything we do, because Jesus has been justifying us. We cannot plead innocence because we are guilty. We cannot blame somebody else because we can never be blameless. We cannot take sides because God didn't take sides. we can never be good because the cross proves we are bad.
What do we do with our broken vows and our failed morality. We admit it. We admit that there is nothing we can do to change it. We then seek to be responsible for the consequences, whatever they may be. Sometimes we can salvage whatever life is left in our broken relationships and sometimes we have to admit that we have murdered the souls of our brothers and sisters and bury the past. Whatever circumstances we find ourselves in, we must have the courage to admit and accept them. Then we can take the first free step into new life.. forgiven. We can only start with new life. If that new life can restore and reconcile, wonderful. But perhaps, that new life, cannot resurrect. Walk in forgiveness to yourself and to those whom you have killed. Take the consequences and rise into new life, alone.

This is what Jesus did. He died alone. His forgiveness affected only one person. Himself. Jesus died forgiving us. No one else changed that day, after he prayed. No one repented. No one rushed the cross in remorse. Jesus died alone, forgiving his executioners, all of us who carry hammers and nails crying " Barrabus". He took a thief into eternity with him, an enduring sign of the unconditionally of this forgiveness, and Jesus rose again, alone, to new life. From that moment on, mankind's only response could be the awestruck relief that comes from the heart of the condemned when they realise that their death sentence has been carried out on someone else and that the doors of their prison, barred by the requirements of the law, has swung open, permanently. The law has been fulfilled.

We have been tried, found guilty, sentenced to death, and executed.... how? Through the life, the flesh of God. The word made flesh, nevermore to return to words. Put down your books. Open your eyes. Who is that on your cross? Who put him there? Wasn't it our self righteous attempts in explaining and defining God?

If we really are that guilty... then we really are forgiven aren't we?
The Gospel:
"Jesus reveals the unconditional nature of God's forgiveness as His only and
eternal response to the unconditional guilt of mankind."

Stop looking for God. Let God find you. Isn’t this what the incarnation is all about? Stop trying to work it out. He can't get inside you to bend your will. If he could, wouldn't he have prevented his own death? All he can do is show you who he is and how he responds to who you are. He knows the worst and it doesn't make any difference to his decision to love, forgive and restore. You can't change the mistakes of the past. You can only accept the consequences and walk as a free and forgiven man. How can you do that, you ask?

Tell me, what is alive and what is dead? Live in the life, bury the dead. The only resurrection we have is into eternity. Until then we have to deal with our continual tendencies to kill things. This is the consequence that we have to deal with, all our life. Death is part of the human journey. It is unavoidable. Sorry. The "fairy tale" has only one ending, and that one comes after death.

I can never tell you what to do. But as I look at Jesus, I see the same. He allows us to make mistakes. He does not protect us from them, even to his own hurt. He holds out his flesh and challenges us to redefine our image of God. Then, he walks with us as we work out the mess that we have made and continue to make. He follows us whenever we run away. He waits for us wherever we stop... he never, ever leaves us. Never. Never. Never.

He can't. He made that decision on the cross. He sealed it in his resurrection.

The guilt that stalks us is not the end. We are all guilty of much worse.

What is the truth? True love does not enslave. True love liberates. Liberate one another, even if that is painful in the short term. Either way you turn must be a decision to liberate. Which way frees. Which way enslaves?

I sincerely hope that you find the liberation that your soul longs for.

Much hope for you.

Geoff

geoff b

 

 

Copyright © Geoff Bullock 2008

 

 

 

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