During Spokane Faith & Values February "Coffee Talk" we discussed the issue of Violence and the Sacred. I found myself on the fringes of the conversation, but out of respect for the many different beliefs in the room, I chose to listen more than talk, since I have this venue to present my thoughts on the subject. I am fully aware that my view is not held by many, but I wanted to share it for the sake of my own conscience on the matter. I have found deep and lasting transformation in the gospel as it's been taught and practiced to me and I pray it will bear fruit in anyone looking for grace, mercy and eternal life found in and through the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ.
"For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes — the Jew first and also the Gentile. This Good News tells us how God makes us right in his sight," Romans 1:16-17.
Christianity I understand, is a faith that emerges from a story of fall and redemption. That fall is connected to what the Bible calls sin. Sin is the root from which all suffering and death has grown. Sin is a cycle that perpetuates through human choice and response in word and deed from our very beginnings.
God was the first one to shed blood in the story of the fall. Humanity sinned and was left naked in the realization of their fallen state and God killed an animal and covered Adam and Eve's nakedness with the skins of those slain. From the first moments in the sacred text, known as the Bible, we see God's law, human disobedience, sin, resulting in death and a covering provided from God. This sacrificial concept became know and substitution and identification.
Death has always been connected to sin, it is the ultimate consequence. But even after God sacrificed an animal, spilt blood and covered his children's shame, they were expelled from the life of Eden. Animal blood was not enough to remove sin, it was, like the skins, a covering, until a pure sacrifice could be made for sin. Most evangelical Christians believe that Jesus was that sacrifice for all the world's sin.
The Old Testament law, given by God to Moses, required a visceral experience with the results and remedy for sin:
Leviticus 1:2-5 says:
“Give the following instructions to the people of Israel. When you present an animal as an offering to the Lord, you may take it from your herd of cattle or your flock of sheep and goats. If the animal you present as a burnt offering is from the herd, it must be a male with no defects. Bring it to the entrance of the Tabernacle so you may be accepted by the Lord. Lay your hand on the animal’s head, and the Lord will accept its death in your place to purify you, making you right with him. Then slaughter the young bull in the Lord’s presence, and Aaron’s sons, the priests, will present the animal’s blood by splattering it against all sides of the altar that stands at the entrance to the Tabernacle."
"For the life of the body is in its blood. I have given you the blood on the altar to purify you, making you right with the Lord. It is the blood, given in exchange for a life, that makes purification possible," Leviticus 17:11.
When each person laid their hands on those sacrifices, the reality of the consequences of their sins could not be ignored. The gravity of sin was gruesome and the truth of the need for a substitute was played out in the divine drama in such sacrifices. A picture of the coming 'lamb of God' who would take away the sin of the world (John 1:29).
Jesus assumed the fulfillment of these former types and shadows and in his last moments of life, pointed to the central truth of his life giving act on the cross in Matthew 28:26-28:
"As they were eating, Jesus took some bread and blessed it. Then he broke it in pieces and gave it to the disciples, saying, 'Take this and eat it, for this is my body.' And he took a cup of wine and gave thanks to God for it. He gave it to them and said, “Each of you drink from it, for this is my blood, which confirms the covenant between God and his people. It is poured out as a sacrifice to forgive the sins of many.'"
This covenantal ritual, became one of the central symbols of believing community. The cup witnesses to the cross and its final act of forgiveness, the end of blood spilling for sacrifice, the ultimate cleansing and pardon of sin and the act of union with God in faith and practice.
As Christians, we gather around the symbols of the blood and body of Jesus. The cross is at the core of our message and its reconciling act is unashamedly proclaimed in the wine and bread that we share together in worship.
The blood is one of the three witnesses (Spirit, Water, Blood: 1 John 5:6-12) believing Christian's spiritual lives revolve around as a testifying community. These blood drinkers and flesh eaters proclaim the Lord's death until he comes in their gathering around the table. This is our passover meal, our sacrificed lamb (Romans 3:23-26) we believe the blood of this lamb has been applied to the door posts of our heart and that eternal death will pass by us. We know that without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins (Hebrews 9:22).
I am part of an ancient apocalyptic community who not only looks back to the work of Christ but looks forward to the return of Christ. Where a time of judgment awaits, (Hebrews 9:27-28). A judgment based on one's acceptance of this sacrifice and the unfolding of the full salvation of those redeemed who longingly await the coming of our Lord.
This is why I am unashamed to claim by faith the blood and body of Jesus as the saving act of salvation and the resurrection of Christ as my confirmation on God's acceptance of that ultimate and final sacrifice.