Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Our Life Was in His Dying

When you hear that someone has foolishly incurred an unpayable debt--has let credit card use outrun the paycheck or a gambling habit get out of control--what is your first reaction? If it's along the lines of "She should have known better," or "Serves him right for being so foolish," join the majority of humanity. Even if it happens to someone you know personally, the temptation is to brush off any requests for help. Who wants to be the "enabler" who encourages people to think they can do anything they please and always have someone bail them out?

Would you ever offer to pay someone else's debt--even if it would cause you a serious financial hardship?

When you hear that someone has been arrested for a serious crime--and there is no doubt as to his guilt--what is your attitude toward that person? If it's along the lines of "He ought to be locked away forever," that's a natural enough reaction. But if it happened to someone you knew personally, would you refuse to have anything more to do with that person? Or would you offer your compassion and support?

And would you ever take the ultimate step and offer to serve his sentence for him?

Few of us are brave enough to rescue someone else at our own risk. Even fewer are willing to rescue someone from something he or she actually deserves. And if the person involved is no friend of ours, to step in and help is the ultimate act of compassion.

That's what makes it so remarkable that "Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.... when we were God's enemies" (Rom. 5:6-8, 10, NIV). Those of us who have never done anything blatantly criminal tend to forget that even the most exemplary human beings are actually evil enough to deserve eternal hell. Shocking when stated outright, it's nonetheless true; as fire by its very nature destroys cold, the fire of God's completely pure nature reduces the slightest taint of selfishness or immoral desire to ashes. And anyone who refuses to let Him remove the imperfection will be burned up along with it.

Not that removing sin is easy even with those who are willing to get rid of it--even with those who want very much to get rid of it. Although no human being can fully understand the natures of holiness and sin, it's obvious from Scripture that even God is unable to clean the sin from our souls like a parent washing a child's face, a fairly easy and painless process at least for the face-washer. As a virus literally takes over the cell it inhabits, sin somehow becomes inseparable from its host--and unlike a virus, sin infiltrates not a few dispensable cells but an entire soul. The only alternative to destroying sin and soul together is to somehow "transplant" the sin into someone else, someone willing to go through the fire. And only God Himself is capable of enduring His own cleansing fire and coming out alive. So Christ "took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows.... he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all" (Is. 53:4-6, NIV).

The most amazing thing is that, after all He went through for people who deserved not a drop of mercy, there are still so many who would rather take their own punishment than give up their self-reliance.

Our life was in His dying,
Our healing in His pain,
Our comfort in His sorrow:
His loss was for our gain.

He, Who saved countless others,
Would not Himself set free;
The price at which He loved us
Declared how things must be.

Our sins were buried with Him,
And when He rose again,
He left them dead forever--
But raised our souls with Him.

His strength revives our weakness,
For only through His power
Can we live in His service,
Throughout each earthly hour.

Our life was in His dying,
Our healing in His pain,
Our comfort in His sorrow:
His loss was for our gain.

No comments: