Scribbler Works

Musings on life, Christianity, writing and art, entertainment and general brain clutter.

My Photo
Location: Hollywood, California, United States

Writer and artist, and amateur literary scholar ("amateur" in the literal sense, for the love of it). I work in Show Biz.

Monday, July 13, 2015


I am writing to you, little children, because your sins have been forgiven you for His name's sake.

(1 John 2: 12 NIV)

John has spent considerable time talking about how crucial love is between fellow believers. He had spent considerable time making it clear that any belittling of our siblings in faith slides toward a failure of love for them, which leads to the darkness of hate. The consequences of letting even slivers of hatred into our lives can be serious.

So suddenly, John stops and puts forward this reassurance. He gives it in a very loving voice, addressing the readers as “little children.” It is the warm voice of a gentle, beloved grandparent reaching out to scampering youngsters, drawing the lively, wiggling little bodies in to a sheltering hug.

“I am writing to you, little children....”

This is personal. This is loving. This is not generic, directed to just anyone who might be hearing. This reassurance is intended for the loved ones he has been speaking to, the loved ones who are listening to his words. He is speaking to all of us who have chosen to follow the Lord, for we are all of one family.

Many of us forget what it is to be loved in that warm, unconditional, sheltering way. For some, there was the misfortune of never having had that kind of love in their lives, due to abandonment, or abuse, or loss of family for whatever reason. For some, they have been struggling with survival on their own for so long, such blessings in the past have become frozen, static memories, gilded postcards locked away in storage, no longer conveying any sense of present love. Many of us get caught up in just getting through our lives, getting tangled in relationships where every exchange becomes registered in a Quid Pro Quo balance book.

John brings us back to this starting point.

We have a Father who loves us, unconditionally. We have fellow believers who love us as well. We have the assurance of that place. We can climb into the lap of that loving grandfather, and feel comfortable and safe in that haven.

But John doesn’t stop there.

“I am writing to you because your sins have been forgiven for His name’s sake.”
After spending so much time reminding us of the discomforts of being trapped outside community, of being cast into the outer darkness by our own dreadful negative attitudes and behaviors, John brings us the assurance that our sins have been forgiven.

Even though we can fall into the darkness of hating our brother, we need not stay there. Those errors have been forgiven.

He doesn’t say they will be forgiven.

He doesn’t say they can be forgiven.

He doesn’t say that there are conditions for us to receive forgiveness.


He says, our sins have been forgiven. That task is done, completed. It is sitting there, waiting for us. All we need do is claim it, accept it.

John even tells us why it is there for us, ready and waiting.

We are forgiven “for His name’s sake.”

God Almighty, the Creator of the Universe, the Most Holy One, whose purity is so intense that we cannot approach it on our own because our own impurities, which are so deeply woven into our being, would be destroyed by that refining fire. We simply cannot come near to God on our own. We cannot remove our sins on our own, not well enough to get us into the presence of God.

And yet, we are allowed to climb into that loving, sheltering lap of divinity, for the sake of the name of Jesus. Because Christ has taken all the burden of sin upon Himself and has purged it by His suffering, we who have become His followers, who have taken up His name, we are given forgiveness and access to the full love of God.

For the sake of His name.

I know there are times when people feel this is too easy, and that the gift is abused. There are people who lay claim to the name of Jesus, and yet still continue to indulge their sins and hatreds. But John has already spoken to the matter of those who do not in reality let go of their inner darknesses. God is not fooled by our simply “claiming the name of Jesus.”

But there are also those who are serious about turning away from the sins and errors of their past, who yet feel that they have not earned that forgiveness. They feel that there should be some tasks they must do, so pains to suffer, in order to be given that free access to God’s love.

But none of us can earn it. We haven’t the capacity to earn it by right. There is nothing we can do that can wipe out a lifetime of small, petty evils done to those around us, as well as the bigger, more spectacular sins we all recognize. And when we face that and understand it, we realize what a tremendous gift God’s forgiveness is.

It was already earned for our sake, it was already paid for by Christ’s suffering, it was already accomplished by the One whom God the Father loves before all else: Jesus.

Little children, draw near. Climb into the lap of the Almighty God, for you will not be destroyed by His holiness. You have taken on the name of Jesus, and His blood gives you the protection. For the sake of the name of the Beloved of God, you are already forgiven. Know this. Believe this.

Labels: , ,

Sunday, August 03, 2014


But the one who hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes.
(1 John 2:11 NIV)

John keeps bringing out the contrasts between those who love and those who hate. He chooses as many ways as possible to remind us of the extremes, while staying close to his principal imagery of the Light of Christ.

For those who let hatred into their hearts, particularly hatred for those they ought to, by all standards, be loving, he says they walk in darkness. But it is a state that is more than simply being in darkness, it is compounded by blindness.

Earlier, he had talked about walking in darkness, saying that those who do not know Christ move in such conditions. Those who do not believe in the Lord, those who have not heard and learned the Gospel, they walk in darkness. But, they can stop walking in darkness when they come to know the Lord. They will see the Light.

But here, he speaks of those who ought to know better. Here, he is talking about those who have been taught about Jesus, who might otherwise be trying to follow the Lord’s teachings, but who have this one “little” problem: they hate a brother.

To have heard the word of the Lord, to know the teachings of Christ, and yet to harbor a hatred against one we should love, that to John is worse than the state of the non-believer. For we have been in the Light, we have known the Light, but our hatred does more than just drive us back out into the darkness, it blinds us, so that we cannot even see.

When we “merely” have not heard and accepted the Word, we are in darkness. But we can still see. There is still the possibility that we will see the flash of Christ’s Light cutting through our life. There is still the possibility that we will step into the Light, and learn of God’s Love.

But when we hate where we should love, we do something worse than walk out of the Light of the Lord. We do something worse than walk into the outer darkness. When we hate, we blind ourselves and step into the darkness.
Not only do we venture out into the territory of the lost, where those who do not know of Christ wander, we venture out among them blindly.

Imagine what that would be like.

Someone who has known the Light and lived in it has let hatred of a sibling in Christ enter their heart. This person has walked out of the Light and into the darkness where people who do not know Christ wander. But our former friend not only cannot see these wanderers, he cannot see the Light in the distance any longer, because he is also blind. A wanderer might see the Light in the distance and start moving toward it, but the one who is blinded by hate does not have that possibility.

I was once at a retreat for college students, and there was to be an evening campfire. I happened to leave the cabin I was in without my flashlight, and unfortunately there was no pathway through the trees to the campfire. From the walkway to the fire, we would have to cross uneven ground, where stones and roots lay waiting to trip us up. But ahead of me, I could see the light of the campfire. So I kept my eyes on that, and tread evenly and carefully, and made it across the whole distance without stumbling and falling.

That real, physical experience taught me much about what it is like to see the Light of Christ in the distance. If the non-believer who truly seeks Light sees it, even from a far distance, Christ will bring them closer, in spite of stumbling stones and tripping roots. All they need do is keep their eyes on the Light.

But when hatred enters our hearts, the effect becomes both internal and external. Not only do we lose our sight, we bring the external darkness with us.

Is this really what we want in our lives?

What can cause us to hate our brother? This is someone we should be loving. Someone who shares love with us and others, someone who has learned to love Christ, learned to live in the Light of the Lord. What could possibly create hatred of such a person?

Well, the truth is that even at the best of times, we all are broken creatures. We are all imperfect. We all still have much to learn about following Christ.
Being imperfect, we can easily fall into envy of a sibling in Christ. Suppose we see a fellow believer who has had some worldly success in their profession. It is easy to envy that success and the seeming benefits that come with it. If we let that envy fester, we can grow from liking the person but resenting the success into hating the person for having what we lack. We have ceased to love the brother because we look at the worldly things they “got” and we forget that what the Lord gives each of us is special to us, and sufficient.

That is one way we can come to hate a brother.

Another is when misunderstandings grow up between fellow believers. Our desire to always be right can deafen us to what the other person has to say. Our desire to be right can cause us to dismiss any overture toward restoring balance and understanding. By refusing to even listen, we harden our hearts, creating a shell that keeps others out – not just the person we disagree with, but others as well. Once we shut someone out, we behave as if they are an enemy, someone to be defended against, no matter what they do or say. And feeling follows behavior. When we start to behave as if we hate someone, we do in fact come to hate that person.

When hatred enters the heart, by whatever means, it brings darkness and blindness to those who had been in the Light.

The one who hates his brother does not know where he is going. The one who hates his brother has lost the capacity to even see the Light in the distance. The one who hates his brother has brought darkness around him.

Isolation will inevitably result from this, because for those who love the Lord, the Light is where they want to be. They don’t want to be drawn back into darkness. Choosing Christ may mean letting go of the one who harbors a hatred of a sibling in Christ. Choosing Christ means to stay in the Light, to learn to love others no matter what.

Who wants to be lost in the darkness and blind to even the glimmer of the Light of the Lord?

Labels: , ,

Thursday, July 31, 2014


The one who loves his brother abides in the Light and there is no cause for stumbling in him.
(1 John 2:10 – NAS)

John wants to make it very clear that love is the key to living in the Light. So he says it repeatedly through several formulations. Each time, he touches on some variant perspective. He does not want to leave any crack unlit and unexplored.

Previously, he had addressed the matter of those who claim to follow the Lord or to love their brother or to abide in the Light. But now he speaks of those who actually do love their brothers, their fellow-believers. After all, they do exist. We may carry hidden resentments and angers toward others, but that does not mean that love is impossible. We do also manage to love at least a few people.

So... “the one who loves his brother abides in the Light.”

Isn’t that a good thing to know?

Yes, Jesus called us to love all others, even our enemies. That is a true challenge to our natures, and a very difficult thing to achieve. And it is certainly what we should be striving for.

But John, for the moment, brings us this more immediate and seemingly simpler task. “Love your brother, your sibling in Christ.” How hard is that?

We tend to make it harder than it ought to be. We fall into dividing the Body by criteria other than being followers of Christ. We start separating ourselves with all sorts of barriers: how scripture is interpreted, what type of music is performed in worship, how the worship service is conducted, which translation of the Bible is used, which congregational structure our communities operate under. We are ready to separate ourselves from other lovers of Jesus on the basis of far too many reasons.

We let those distinctions cause us to go stumbling about. We as individuals stumble over them. But we also let our own divisions cause others to stumble. We witness to new believers that we personally think the style of worship is more important than loving our brothers. Or maybe the type of music used. Or the scriptural translation relied upon. We do a poor job of letting our lives testify that it is love which is most important in the Body of Christ.

So, once again, John reminds us that it is in loving our fellows that causes us to abide in Light.

Wouldn’t we all rather live in the Light? Do we really want darkness around us as we try to live our lives according to Jesus’ teachings?

But that’s not the end of it with John. It’s not just that if we love our siblings in Christ we shall live in the Light. It is also that in doing so, we will not stumble. Or as he puts it, there is no cause for stumbling.

Why does he put it that way?

I think it is because he is talking about something more than just keeping our own feet from tripping up. That is, of course a good thing. Nobody likes tripping over their own feet. But I think John is going beyond that. I think he means also that when we live in the Light, we also do not trip up others.

When we love other people, we want them to stay upright as well. We don’t really want to see those we love tripping up all around us. We reach out and help those we love.

We never think of the possibility that we might be a cause for the stumbling of others, especially not those we care about. And yet, that possibility does exist.

How can that be? In what way can we cause others to stumble?

One of the most obvious ways that can occur in the community of Christ is when two people who are friends, but who are married to others, become romantically involved with each other. It is so easy to make excuses for the breaking of fidelity when powerful emotions and desires are involved. Do we even think of this as causing another to stumble? It is love after all, right? But what of the others around the erring couple? Anger on the part of the betrayed spouse, discomfort and distress for the family and friends of both parties, all these negative emotions pushing several people into stumbling.

There are other ways in which we can cause others to stumble.

When a fellow believer who has looked toward us for spiritual leadership sees us behaving in a less than ideal way, might that person not feel excused about similar behavior in their own life? “My mentor does this, so maybe it’s not such a bad thing after all.” It is easy enough for us to disavow responsibility for other people’s choices. We ought to be conscious of the power that love for our fellow believers has, whether we are the giver or the receiver. Do we think to warn our friends? Do we actually say, “Don’t do this. It’s my besetting sin, and I should be handling it better. It isn’t justified.” Isn’t that what a loving sibling ought to do? Shouldn’t we warn our sister or brother that there are times they should not follow in our footsteps?

The one who loves his brother abides in the Light and there is no cause for stumbling in him.

We do not travel alone, in our lives as believers in Jesus. We travel with our loved ones, our siblings in the Lord. We need the Light so that we can see where we are going. And we need to make sure that we ourselves do not stumble, nor cause others to stumble because we have taken a misstep. Our love for those around us causes us to help each other stay upright, without stumbling.

Let us remember to love each other, and so help keep each other from stumbling.

Labels: , ,

Sunday, September 01, 2013


On the other hand, I am writing a new commandment to you, which is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true Light is already shining. The one who says he is in the Light and yet hates his brother is in the darkness until now.

(1 John 2: 8-9 – NAS)
John has earnestly tried to remind his readers that what he has been telling them in this letter is not really anything new to them as disciples. But as a way of shaking up their perceptions of what is expected of them as followers of Jesus, he now adds some thoughts, “On the other hand....”

So often, when we want to offer seemingly contrary perspectives, we like to turn to constructions like “on the other hand.” Most of the time what we are presenting are not flat-out opposite options, such as “Kill that man” or “Don’t kill that man.” More often, what we are considering when we use that phrase is that we want to put forward a secondary course that heads in much the same direction as the first. After all, when we physically extend both our hands at the same time, they generally point in the same direction. It is just that the specifics provide different outlooks and experiences.

This then is what John means when he tells us that he has a “new” commandment for us.
But what is it that makes it “new” compared to the commandments Jesus gave us? John has an answer for that as well.
He says, “the darkness is passing away and the true Light is already shining.”
When Jesus came to teach His disciples, those who listened to Him were living in a darkness. Jesus is the True Light of God, shining into our lives. His presence among people, living as one of us, brought an entirely new context to the matter of our relationship with God. Before Jesus came, we did not have an advocate who would redeem us in the eyes of the Lord. But after Jesus came, we were given this new option, this new way to approach the holiness of God. After Jesus came, those who joined the body of believers lived in a world where the redemption of our unfitness was already accomplished – all we had to do as new believers was accept it and put our new life into action. We, as believers who have come to the Lord after the Resurrection, walk a path where the True Light already shines before us.
So what is this new perspective that John wants to bring us to about our walk as followers of Jesus?
He says that anyone “who says he is in the Light and yet hates his brother is in the darkness until now.”
This is a slightly different angle from what John has said before, about claiming to be walking in the Light while still sinning. He wants us to reconsider all the things that we think of as sin, because there are actions and choices that we can gloss over – such as how we treat those closest to us.
John puts it bluntly: someone who says he belongs to Jesus “and yet hates his brother is in the darkness until now.”
Does he mean our literal flesh and blood siblings? No, he does not. He means those who have been bonded to us spiritually by our shared commitment to the Lord. 
In the Lord’s eyes, when we become believers in Christ we are joined together in one family, as children of the Living God. We are given the status of His heirs. In God’s eyes, we are made closer than blood siblings.
So, is it possible then to “hate our brothers”?
Human nature is very fragile and weak. Yes, it is quite possible to fill our relationship with a particular person with negativity.
What does it mean, after all, to “hate one’s brother”?
Certainly, when we find ourselves actively disliking another believer, we have fallen into “hating our brother.” If we cannot question that person’s commitment to Christ, what are our grounds for “hating” them?
It is true that there are plenty of committed believers who are less-than-perfect when it comes to living out the commandments of our Lord. There are those who have fallen into dubious interpretations of the ordinances of scripture. There are some whose personalities will always rub us the wrong way for any number of reasons. But if at rock bottom we know that they are followers of Jesus (no matter how poor their understanding or thorough their application of scripture), they are our siblings in Christ – and we cannot hate them.
If we claim to be standing in the Light of Christ, the only criteria we may use to evaluate “kinship in Christ” is whether the other person claims Jesus as their Lord. Paul says elsewhere that that is all that is required to gain Christ in our lives. And it is that which makes the other person our “brother.” Not method of baptism, not the procedure for confessing of sins, not shared approach to worship.
“Jesus is Lord.”
If we allow ourselves to hate anyone who says that with all their heart -- if we allow distaste for their personal habits, their lapses in judgment, their poor understanding, or any such cause – then we have fallen into hating our brother. There’s no way around it.
In this day and age, we frequently see “leaders” in the Body of Christ take very narrow-minded stances. We see just prominent figures make declarations that are everything but pronouncements of the Love of Jesus. And we can condemn the foolishness of their behavior, and wonder about the depth of their so-called commitment to the Lord. But it is not our place to judge the reality of that commitment. We do not need to follow them, only the Lord. We should pray for them as straying siblings, but leave the evaluation of the reality of their commitment to our Ultimate Judge.
Our calling is to act in love toward our siblings in Christ – no matter how challenging that may be.

Labels: , ,

Friday, February 08, 2013


Beloved, I am not writing a new commandment to you, but an old commandment which you have had from the beginning; the old commandment is the word which you have heard. 

(1 John 2:7 – NAS)


John makes a point of telling his readers that what he is speaking of should not be anything new to them: they have heard these lessons before. In fact, he points out that what he is talking about were the first things they encountered as they began their fellowship with Christ.

It’s part of our human nature to crave something new. We want something fresh to excite us, something different to add variety to the regular routines of life. But we also have a tendency to treat older things with less respect, perhaps because we think age makes them useless. We look at the limitations that descend upon the human body with increased age and we assume that the same is true of all things under the sun, including the standards and laws by which we shape our lives.

But this isn’t want God originally designed, nor does He change the basics of His intentions.

John wants to be clear that the foundation of what he is saying in this letter is the nature of God’s love, and His commandment that we love one another. There is nothing new in this, for it is part of the fabric of the Lord’s creativity from the very beginning of the world. And it is the beginning point of anyone’s walk as a believer in Christ.

We have become believers because (in whatever fashion it came to us) we heard and accepted that Jesus manifested God’s love for us. We have become believers because we know that without God we make a mess of our lives to such a degree we could not possibly come near to the holiness of the Lord, even though that is our deepest rooted desire. We understand that Jesus became the sacrifice that clears the way for us to run directly into the heart of God without having our flaws destroy us.

However it is that we begin our lives in fellowship with Jesus, we know it beings with love. This is nothing new to us. It is the oldest thing in belief, the rock bottom foundation we stand on.

And that is perhaps the strongest metaphor for what John says here.

There is nothing new in the message he seeks to convey. The foundations of our faith and understanding have been there since the beginning of our commitment to following Christ. The love of God is the rock beneath our feet.

What “new thing” could give us a greater, more reliable foundation? What “new thing” would be so secure and certain that we barely think about it?

There is nothing that can be so unendingly certain as the love of Christ. And there is nothing that can be so unendingly live-giving as acting on His commandments.

There’s nothing new in His commandment that we love the Lord and love one another. It is the starting point for all other acts of faith.

Why does John make this point, though?

He was writing at a time when Gnosticism had attempted to invade the practice of the faith. Gnostics enticed people off the path with promises of new, special knowledge that only “the In Crowd” could access. The old lessons were for simpletons: the new lessons they had would give them the world.

John reminds his readers that the reality is they were given the key to God’s kingdom from the very beginning. It was nothing hidden, nothing secret. It was the first thing they learned.

There is nothing deeper, stronger, more lasting and durable than the love of God. And He proved it by dwelling with us as Jesus, sacrificing Himself for us in order to let us draw near to the Most Holy. And when we accept this sacrifice, we accept His commandment to love each other.

What “new lesson” or “new commandment” can be greater than that?

Nothing “new” can supersede that first lesson. Why would we look for such? We knew how great it was from the beginning.

Labels: , ,

Friday, January 18, 2013


By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, "I have come to know Him," and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.  
(1 John 2: 3-6 – NAS)

John makes his point so earnestly in these verses that it seems clear that even in his time – within the lifespan of someone who had actually walked  with Jesus – there came to be “followers” who were declaring that they “knew the Lord,” but whose actions certainly did not show that to be the case. How heart-wrenching that must have been for John, to see that there were people who wanted to be “in with the In Crowd,” as it were, but who were not really interested in doing those things Jesus had taught and commanded.

And it still happens, of course.

Why is that? Why would people declare themselves Christians and yet not live according to the guidelines Jesus gave His followers?

It’s human nature to want to be well-thought-of. We do crave the respect of others, the admiring and appreciating regard. And certainly, the type of person who follows the commandments of Jesus would be a very admirable person: peacemaker, merciful, generous, caring, attentive. Who would not want to have such a cloak around their shoulders?

And to gain that respect and admiration, why, all one has to do is claim  to be a follower of Jesus. Right?

We walk the fine line between the issue of salvation by declaration of faith and salvation by works. Arguments had been made, even in the days of the Apostles, that all that was needed to gain salvation was a confession that Jesus is Lord. Because Jesus died for our sins, all our erroneous actions were paid for by Him, and we are allowed into the presence of God. But the expectation is that gaining that salvation would change us so much that we would now live according to the commandments of Jesus (or at least try to do so).

But even in John’s time, apparently there were plenty who merely gave lip service to being followers of Christ.

“Lip service” is one of those phrases we use a lot without thinking much of it. It means to vow adherence or allegiance to something, saying the words but not following through with the actions that would actually show the allegiance. The only thing “serving the cause” are the words of the declarer.

John makes it clear that when it comes to following Christ, that’s not good enough. “Talk is cheap,” we like to say. It’s very easy to say we follow the Lord, to say we believe in His sacrifice. But John says that if we say these things, and yet do not act according to the commandments of Jesus, we’re lying about our faith.

For John, who had been in the living presence of Jesus, who had walked the dusty roads with the Lord, sat in fields while Jesus spoke to crowds, been squashed into corners of houses packed with people who wanted to see Jesus, it must have seemed sad and strange that there would be “followers” who would claim to love the Lord and yet not be so transformed by that love that they did not start trying to act like Jesus. Their love, it seems, went no further than saying words.

Even now it is very easy to say we are “in the Lord” to mean that we have a certain circle of friends who share a certain outlook. And that that circle can include people we’ve only just met, but who we allow in because they make the same declaration. It becomes just a social designation, and we don’t think about what John really was saying about “abiding in the Lord.”

After all, what does “abiding in the Lord” really mean?

I think it means that Jesus has taken each of us into His heart -- deep into His heart, to that place where no defenses are raised, where love is unconditional and always available. He allows us into that place to dwell forever.

How can we not be changed by such an experience? How can we not grow in a desire to become more and more like that which surrounds us, there in the heart of the Lord?

But we don’t, not always. Because it is not such a visible, tangible thing to us as we want. We have only the assurance of the words left to us and the presence of the Holy Spirit. And the presence of the Holy Spirit is (usually) something invisible, and thus easy to dismiss if not exactly ignore.

John wants to shake us up, to wake us up. He knows that if we are not reflecting the nature of Christ in our actions, we aren’t really inside His being: we are not abiding in Jesus.

He’s not claiming that we have to be following the commandments of Jesus perfectly. Of course we’re going to stumble, and fumble, and get some things wrong. But if our intention truly is to be like Christ, the Lord will handle our missteps (as noted previously, He is the propitiation for our sins and errors). The Lord’s love becomes perfect in us. It’s something He does because we have opened our own hearts to the experience of being inside His heart.

But inevitably, there should be some evidence of it. The transformation that God’s love works on us should show up in our actions, not just our words. And it’s not like we don’t know what the Lord’s commandments are: there’s a whole Sermon of the basics of what our live should look like.

What it comes down to, in a popular phrasing, is – Don’t just talk the talk: walk the walk.

We should give the Lord much more than lip service.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, January 15, 2013


and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.

(1 John 2: 2 – NAS)

John has just told us that Christ is our Advocate before the Lord, our representative who will argue in the Ultimate Court in our defense when we face God’s justice for our sins. Now he takes that description a step further, and tells us that Christ is also “the propitiation for our sins.”

“Propitiation” is not a word we use much these days. It means to gain or regain the favor of someone, to appease or conciliate. It implies that the person being appeased has some authority over the person offering the propitiation.

Why would propitiation be needed?

It is needed because the holiness of the Lord is such that anything that is stained cannot endure in His presence. And we stumbling humans cannot help but be very stained by our lives; our sins of choice, our sins of error, our sins of omission permeate our being. On our own, we have no hope of being able to approach God because we cannot rid ourselves of these effects, at least not by our own efforts.

But Jesus Christ our Advocate also absorbs the consequence of our sins. However you want to look at it – that Jesus stands between us and a just punishment, or that He takes into Himself our sins so that we would then stand free and clear and pure in the presence of God – Jesus is the one who “makes things right” between us and God the Father.

It is not that the consequence of our sins is brushed aside and forgotten. No, instead, Jesus takes it all upon himself. The consequence is still the consequence and it must play out. But because of His sacrifice upon the cross, Jesus is the one that takes on those consequences.

I think that sometimes we undervalue what it means to have Christ as the propitiation of our sins. And we take it for granted. We walk through our lives as followers of Jesus, and discount the effects of our less-than-perfect actions. After all, our intentions were good, and that should be enough, shouldn’t it? We hardly consider the possibility that something we said or did with good intentions might in fact have had evil consequences.

God does not un-make any of the consequences of any action. He set the Universe to work in a certain way, and one of those ways is that consequences follow actions. He does not change that.

But what He does do is let His Son Jesus take on all those negative consequences. Instead of letting them fall upon us (the fate we deserve), Jesus has taken them on to Himself. And not just the negative consequences before God of the actions of believers, but of the whole world. Jesus stands between everyone and the divine judgment leveled against them, and all anyone has to do is accept Him as Lord in order to gain the benefit of that.

The whole world.

We like to say of extreme consequences that they are “a whole world of pain.” But for Jesus, that is the literal truth. By taking on the role of propitiation for our sins, He has taken on all the pain we would justly receive as a consequence for our actions. No matter what.

It occurs to me that when outraged believers ardently desire heavy punishment to fall on sinners, whether the sinners are repentant or not, the believers are desiring to see others suffer. Humans have a strong impulse for vengeance. We desire to return all ills that we receive. And when we can cloak that desire as the delivery of a just punishment, we feel a sense of satisfaction. So we willingly acquiesce to harsh punishments.

But Jesus is the propitiation for the sins of the whole world. Every divine punishment we could wish upon other sinners, Jesus has taken onto Himself. Because God so loved the whole world that He sent His only Son.

And whatever we do to others, we do to Jesus.

I am certainly grateful for Jesus taking on the consequences of my own sins. I am capable of thoughtlessly or carelessly injuring others, capable of any number of “small sins.” And I know I am not shut away from the presence of God as I deserve because Jesus has absorbed the consequences of those actions.

What I had not considered before is that He does that for others as well, even when I feel that they should at least have a sense of the lash or retribution. Someone did an injury to me: I want them to know what they did and be punished for it. But God’s love is such that even there, Jesus stands as the propitiation for sin. That consequence, that punishment that I want to see visited on another is instead visited on Jesus. It humbles me. Shall I then add to the wounds of the whip that tore apart the skin of the Lord? Shall I too drive the nails into His hands and feet? This He did for the sins of the whole world.

Perhaps we should not be so eager to demand retribution. We all of us deserve it. But Jesus is the one who takes the eternal consequences upon Himself.

Labels: , , ,