This post is not a collection of my usually organized thoughts, witticisms, and musings. It is an open cry for help. There is a language barrier with the Bible. There are so many phrases that are said in Christianity. They are familiar, so people usually nod agreeably, but I am stopping today to raise my hand to scream, “I do not understand. Please help me.”
All I ever wanted was for Christianity to make sense. And it doesn’t. If you say it does, then you don’t understand what “make sense” means.
25. make sense, to be reasonable or comprehensible: His attitude doesn’t make sense.
As part of my quest to put back the pieces of my wrecked faith, I’m reading Ray Comfort’s How To Know God Exists. For the most part, I like the book. It sticks to the facts and rarely proselytizes. In stating the facts, the book has poked sizable holes in Darwin’s theory of evolution. [That theory, by the way, has never been proven, it’s just popular. And that only gets you so far.] But in gushing ecstatically about the value and importance of the gift of Jesus’s death on the cross, my ability to process what was being said started to falter. It was as if the words were written in another language whose words I’ve never learned.
“The savior died an excruciating death on the cross, taking your punishment (the death penalty) upon Himself…”
Okay, I’m following the story so far.
“…the demands of eternal justice were satisfied the moment He cried, ‘It is finished!’”
Assuming “it is finished” refers to the words Jesus spoke before he died, what does Jesus’ death have to do with me? If I’m the one guilty, then how is anyone’s death besides mine acceptable? And also, what are “the demands of eternal justice?”
(Visualize me donning spectacles in order to look close at the fine print in attempt to understand.)
The next sentence is:
“The Bible tells us, ‘Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having been made a curse for us.’”
Hold the phone. This part is the most confusing. I’ve heard this said over and over in every permutation, but I need somebody to stop pretending that this sentence is as clear as day.
What is “the curse of the law”? Isn’t a curse a looming omen of bad things happening? What does that omen have to do with law? And if a curse is a looming omen of bad things happening, then how can Christ become one of those? I’m only familiar with “redeeming” as something you do to coupons in order to get free stuff. So I just assumed ignorance and looked to see if maybe redeem means something I don’t know.
[ri-deem] verb (used with object)
to buy or pay off; clear by payment: to redeem a mortgage.
to buy back, as after a tax sale or a mortgage foreclosure.
to recover (something pledged or mortgaged) by payment or other satisfaction: to redeem a pawned watch.
to exchange (bonds, trading stamps, etc.) for money or goods.
to convert (paper money) into specie.
to discharge or fulfill (a pledge, promise, etc.).
to make up for; make amends for; offset (some fault, shortcoming, etc.): His bravery redeemed his youthful idleness.
to obtain the release or restoration of, as from captivity, by paying a ransom.
in Theology. to deliver from sin and its consequences by means of a sacrifice offered for the sinner.
The most applicable definition of “redeem” is the last one regarding theology. And even there, I have to point at “deliver” and ask gruffly ask, “what do dat mean?” The most applicable definition of deliver is “to set free or liberate.” So I continued reading, but I would get frustrated, stop, pray. Shake my head, then try to read again.
“We broke the Law, but God became a man to pay our penalty with His own life’s blood.”
Frustrated. “Jesus, please help me understand.” Read some more.
“Then He rose from the dead, defeating death.”
“Defeating death?” Is death a game? An opponent? A proposed law in congress? I stop and pray, “Jesus, I don’t know how to take this in.” Try again. Go back, read.
“This means that God can forgive every sin you have ever committed and commute your death sentence.”
Now I’m ready to give up. “Commute my death sentence?” I don’t understand. I’m so smart, and so lost. It’s a horrible combination. Can any of you explain in simpler terms what is meant here?
Please leave a comment or reply to the delivered e-mail to explain.
- UPDATE (12/23/2013 1:18am): My friend Brooke (of DistrictDiva.com) got the ball rolling with some excellent concise answers in a comment below, so I followed-up with more specific questions.
- UPDATE (12/23/2013 1:38am): Another friend and pastor pointed me to a recent sermon by Devon Johnson going into detail on “Atonement and Salvation.” From 12:20-14:00 in the sermon, Johnson addresses the connection between animal and human sacrifice in the Bible.