the sign in front of the small white church was impossible to miss, sitting near the shoulder of the highway. on its stark white background a face of a man with caucasian features was outlined in black. his eyes stared out at those who traveled along the road. on his head was a black thorny crown and streams of black blood appeared to flow down the sides of his head. at the bottom of the sign were these words: "this blood's for you."
as we drove past, i wondered what sort of a god would require a great teacher to die in such a horrible way. i wondered if such a god was worthy of worship. i wondered if the idea of such a blood-thirsty god didn't contradict the passage in micah that says, " what does the lord require of you? to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." i wondered if this whole atonement idea wasn't a way to make sure that christians felt perpetually guilty, always reminding ourselves that the man whose life was the beginning of our faith had to be crucified to pay for our sins, otherwise we would be doomed for all eternity.
aside from resentment that the death of jesus was cheapened by adapting a beer slogan to proclaim a message about his crucifixion, i felt a deep sadness for those who had to see that sign each time they drove into their church's parking area or each time they drove down that highway. the execution of jesus was a tragic end to a great life, tragic because it was unnecessary, tragic because it resulted from the lust for power on the part of religious leaders who should have heeded the teachings of jesus. this business of "the atoning death of jesus" obscures the good that he did during his lifetime, the profound teachings about love, about true religion, that he proclaimed in an obscure middle eastern backwater of the roman empire.
may we focus on the wonder of jesus' life, rather than beating ourselves up over our own unworthiness in light of his death. may we live so that the kingdom of god about which jesus spoke becomes a reality. may we live lives of love, compassion, and forgiveness so that jesus lives on in us. shalom