All I know is that God Is Love
In the late summer of 2001, I had a life-changing six week visitation from the Holy Spirit. What totally shocked me was how rich with affection His Presence was. He flowed with the most beautiful emotions I could imagine. Emotions like warm regard, gentle patience, happy kindness, lightness of heart, restful peace, fun playfulness, and wild unflagging LOVE!!
All those emotions swirled in and around and through me day after day for the six full weeks He opened my senses to Him. It was like He was living emotion, living beautiful emotion, of which we in this world have only dull shadows.
One of the first things the Holy Spirit asked during this long visit was for me to take communion and remember with Him the death of Jesus – His body that was broken and His blood that was spilled.
One might wonder why this beautiful, loving God would want to have anything to do with remembering a slow gruesome death through the cruelty of Roman crucifixion. And one might wonder why those of the Christian faith seem to regard this horrible death as such a foundational event.
And so I’ll tell you a story, maybe a story like you’ve never heard before.
A Simplistic Story As I Understand It
Long ago God created a perfect world. Our Creator, deliciously good Himself, declared his creation good. It was harmonious with all the beautiful, loving, happy emotions I spoke of above. Harmony, peace, and joy were defining, as they were defining of the Creator Himself.
The Creator chose a plot of ground on this new earth and planted a garden. It was a wonderful garden – without weeds, pest, blight, or drought.
Creator God then created a man and a woman who reflected His very image and gave them the garden as their home. He dearly loved the man and woman He had created and spent time with them and gave them joyful, satisfying, meaningful work. There was no death, no decay and no unpleasantness. They flourished.
Their occupation was to serve and keep the garden in which they lived. (Keep it from what, I wonder? Maybe we’ll see.) But that wasn’t all. The plan was that, as they procreated and spread across the earth, they were to have dominion over the entire earth and everything in it.
Now, dominion isn’t the same thing as domination. Domination has to do with power over someone or something. But dominion is rulership, and Jesus Himself explained that the role of the leader is to humbly serve (Matthew 23:11).
When God planted this garden, He took a great and calculated risk. He placed a Choice in the garden. Why would He do this? Possibly because without a choice these people He loved could never truly be His friends. With no choice they could only be programmed, dominated, or controlled. And programming, domination, and control aren’t within the nature of God.
The essence of the Choice was to honor their Creator’s instructions and be content with the loveliness they lived in and with the satisfying relationship they had with their Creator, or to violate the Creator’s wishes and seek beyond for what might lay outside. He warned them that outside their present reality was death.
My imagination kicks in here. I can picture them in this loveliness wondering what exotic things lay in that realm God said was off limits. Was it better than this? Were they missing out on something they might desire? With no paradigm for anything but harmony, beauty, love, and a world bursting with life, they didn’t know what to expect. And being limited to their own reality, which was defined by the beauty of Who God Is, they could not access any real data for making this decision. They either had to trust this great friend and loving Creator, or they could explore beyond His margins.
The day came that the man and the woman made their Choice, and they chose to explore the reality that was outside this loveliness God had entrusted to them. And there truly was a reality outside of it. It was a reality outside of God Himself.
All the things that were outside the beautiful nature of God were in that reality. I have no clue why it existed. That’s not part of this story. But it was real and it was filled with all the things that were dissonant to the nature of God.
And so humanity chose. It wasn’t God who chose; it was our kind who made the Choice. And in their choosing, they ushered in much that was dissonant to the beautiful nature of God: stress, discontent, broken relationships, shame, injury, disease, death, ingratitude, boredom, resistance, gossip, craving, and yes, even what we call outright evil (such as torturing people to death through crucifixion). Our entire world system was corrupted with dissonance. And since that day, each of our hearts were born tasting dissonance.
Our destiny was now death – physical death, which we know, and spiritual death, which involves ultimately being forever separated from all the beauty that is God.
Thankfully, this did not make us void of good – His image was still the source of our existence. But we were no longer defined by the lovely nature of God. We now had far more in common with what exists outside of God than with what exists inside Him. The innocence of our relationship with Him was disturbed and we were no longer harmonious with Who He Is.
But our Creator never lost interest in us. He never stopped speaking to us, interacting with us, loving us, or providing for us. He wasn’t intimidated or repelled by us. Even at our dirtiest and most dissonant, He never turned away. Throughout the scriptures we see Him interacting lovingly with dissonant people (for example, as in Genesis 4:6). Jesus Himself confirmed this as He explained the heart of the Most High, explaining that God is kind even to those who are ungrateful and evil (Luke 6:35).
He continually poured out His grace and mercy into this alternate, undesirable realm in which we were trapped – this realm that He had so longed to protect us from.
Our end destiny of being forever separated from our delightful Creator was one we had no ability to overcome. And our determined efforts to eradicate dissonance and achieve the paradise we had lost merely resulted in human achievement that took us further and further from the exquisite nature of Creator God, and further and further from an affectionate harmony with Him.
We might have longed for the kind of relationship with God that still somehow echoed in the far recesses of the past, but we were destined to live in a reality that was not His. And we couldn’t fix this with our choices or our behaviors. Our destiny was immutable. There was no win. We were infected with the dissonance that existed outside of God and try as we might, we couldn’t entirely eradicate it and win back to our place of innocence.
Some Want It This Way
Keep in mind that some today consciously prefer living in this present reality. Some might want the beauty, the satisfying work, the kindnesses, and the security of the original creation. But they don’t want to be limited by what is in the nature of Creator God.
They want the freedom to explore beyond Him. They value knowing what is beyond His edges and indulging in what is opposite to who He is. They have no desire to return to the brilliant, rich but naive innocence of earliest humanity.
I have known people who applaud the woman who was involved in making this Choice, exalting her as Goddess and Savior of humanity. They believe this story I’m telling. They just interpret it differently, crediting her with carrying humanity into a new age of enlightenment and rescuing us from the oppressive world of Yahweh. They gladly accept the consequences as worth the freedom from Creator God’s boundaries.
Enter The Plan
But God never stopped loving us. He was terribly concerned about our long-term destiny of spiritual death – being sundered forever from Him and from all that was of Him. He didn’t want this for any of us (2 Peter 3:9).
Creator God didn’t have any tidy options at this point. We had chosen and now we were all infected with death and dissonance (Romans 5:14). He could not simply ignore the dissonance or pretend that we could pick things up where we left off before the Choice. That would be like welcoming the dissonance and death into Himself, which was impossible. Besides, it seems clear to me that even if somehow He was able to return us to the world and the reality He originally created, we wouldn’t stay there; we’d just once again recreate our dissonant world through our choices and inclinations.
He did have a plan though. But it was exceedingly messy, hugely costly, and, most likely, acutely offensive and entirely incomprehensible to those He was trying to rescue.
This messy, costly, offensive, and incomprehensible plan revolved around the concept of Innocent Blood. It seems to me that it works something like this. Each of us carries a spiritual debt to death – one we have no means at all to pay (Romans 5:14, 6:23). The beauty of the gift of Innocent Blood is that if something perfect and innocent is killed in our place, the blood of perfect innocence can be used to pay our spiritual debt to death that would separate us forever from all that is our Creator. At least temporarily. And it covers over our dissonance as well. (Hebrews 9:22).
It’s worth noting that human sacrifice was meaningless: there was no longer any perfect, innocent human blood of any age; it all carried its own debt to death (Romans 5:14). We could die and it would appease nothing. It would merely fulfill the requisite death sentence against us.
So perfect, spotless, valuable, and sometimes beloved animals were carefully chosen and, as humanely as possible, sacrificed. And it not only temporarily held at bay our own death sentence, but it also graphically reminded us of the life-and-death desperation of our personal situation. In addition, it regularly renewed our awareness that we existed in a realm outside the nature of our Creator. Desperate measures for desperate circumstances.
The ongoing animal sacrifices were plugging a terrible hole, but they were just a temporary fix – and one that required a steady flow of sacrifice to pay for our ongoing dissonance. But this was just a shadow of what was to come.
When the stage was finally set, God moved forward with the permanent fix. And Great Mystery entered the world.
There was One who in the beginning was with God and who also was God. Everything that was created was created through this One. This One was made flesh and lived among us. (John 1:1-14). The fullness of God was in Him (Colossians 2:9). He was entirely harmonious with God, and was in very nature God. However, He did not hold onto that, but made Himself nothing, taking the nature of a servant, and adopting the form of human flesh (Philippians 2:6-7).
And so Jesus was born. His assignment was manifold. He was to immerse himself into this broken, dissonant world, sharing in our suffering, including the suffering involved in being tempted. He wanted to better relate to our experiences and have greater compassion on us (Hebrews 2:17-18, 4:15-16). He was to reveal the Father to us (John 14:9). And most importantly, He was to be the final perfect sacrifice of Innocent Blood that would once and for all restore us to our Creator (Hebrews 10:12).
And Jesus did a wonderful work of embodying God to us. We had so lost track of who God was, forgetting in our dissonance how kind and emotionally beautiful and full of love He was. As Jesus told His disciples, “If you have seen Me, you have seen the Father” (John 14:9). Because we had forgotten. And we had made difficult, convoluted rules and unlimited demands and said they all had to be followed if we were to earn God’s regard. And we painted Him as harsh and demanding.
But Jesus showed us a far more personable portrayal of God. Scriptures say Jesus was filled with extreme joy and gladness (Hebrews 1:9). That certainly sounds like the Holy Spirit who visited me.
When His other work was accomplished, Jesus became the final sacrifice creation had been holding its breath for – the perfect, spotless sacrifice. His pristine, completely Innocent Blood was spilled out.
No one who loved God could have carried out the sacrifice. And so He further shared in our sufferings by putting Himself into the hands of cruel men (Mark 14:41) who mercilessly mocked and tortured Him, and then slowly murdered Him in public, naked and ridiculed. He was a voluntary victim of the evil that was so utterly foreign to His nature.
It was for us. Our spiritual death debt was paid once and for all. His final word as he was dying, translated “It is finished” (John 19:30), was the same word that was stamped in those days on a debt when it was paid in full.
Because of Jesus, we now have the opportunity to go forth without a destiny of spiritual death hanging over our heads. Because of Jesus, we have the opportunity to walk in restored harmony with our wonderful Creator (Romans 5:1). Because of Jesus.
I am eternally grateful.
Jesus is risen!