For many people, the crucifixion of Jesus was an atoning sacrifice needed to please the demands of a just God. The world was meant to live in peace and harmony, until the Fall of man in the Garden of Eden, at which point humanity became tainted with sin. According to this conservative view, God is too perfect to dwell with sin and too just to forgive without a sacrifice, without blood being shed.
And so, Jesus lived a perfect life as the Son of Man in order to become the ultimate sacrifice of humanity. His perfection and crucifixion were the only way to appease the justice of this God.
That’s basically atonement theory in a nutshell.
How can we expect to be a non-violent people when at the core of Christian beliefs (still the dominant religion in the U.S.) is a son being beaten and killed at the will of his father?
If Atonement Theory is the center of your beliefs, then your beliefs center on redemptive violence.
But is this the only way to view the crucifixion?
In what way is it just for an innocent man to die for the sins of many?
Would we call it justice if a murderer was let off the hook and an innocent man took his place on death row?
The symbol of Jesus on the cross is not one of justice. Instead, it was the ultimate symbol of the triumph of Grace over justice.
Grace over justice.
What the cross illustrates is a radical turn in the trajectory of human consciousness. It directly calls out our ideas of what justice is and how it leads us to the conclusion of (the myth of) redemptive violence.
Going deeper into the story we see a man so connected to the Divine and the human, so connected to an eternal flow of love, that he let himself be beaten and murdered to show us that it is only through grace and mercy that we will bring about peace and love.
To declare all sins forgiven by his sacrifice is not justice, it’s grace.
Grace for all of humanity.
And it’s not as if this grace “magically” appeared at his death. No. Rather he died to further our awareness of the grace we already exist in. The grace that has been lavished on us from the beginning of time. The grace that we trampled and kicked to the curb with our ideas of self-righteousness, with our practices of redemptive violence, with our distortions of justice.
If the God of all things is strictly a just God, then I’m afraid there is not hope for myself or anyone else.
But if the God that exists in all things, through all things, and above all things is a God of grace, then I believe it is time we deepen our awareness and accept this beautiful truth.
Once we are able to accept this truth of our being then, and only then, will the way of our being be able to match it.