God Is Love
When we grasp that God is richly affectionate and deliciously good, it changes how we see everything. And so I’ll tell the Christian Good Friday story in a way you may not have heard it before. Father God, may it give highly sensitive people eyes to see our world and Your goodness in a new way! The Name of Jesus!
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 His beautiful, loving, happy emotions. 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 this 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. “But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant” (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 boundaries for them and live in this lovely world in satisfying relationship with their Creator. Or to violate the Creator’s wishes and seek beyond for what might lay outside. And 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 God might be keeping from them. 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 other data for making this decision. They either had to choose to honor their 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 in that reality were outside the beautiful nature of God. 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 4:6-7 when God spoke with Cain). Jesus Himself confirmed this as He explained the heart of Father God, explaining that God “is kind to the unthankful and to the 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. “But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound” (Romans 5:20b).
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.
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. The Apostle Peter explains that God “is long-suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9b).
Creator God didn’t have any tidy options at this point. We had chosen and now we were all infected with death and dissonance. “Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression” (Romans 5:14). He could not simply ignore the dissonance or pretend that we could pick up where we left off before the Choice. That would be like welcoming the dissonance and death into Himself, which was impossible.
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. 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. “And almost all things are purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is not remission” (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. We could die and it would appease nothing. It would merely fulfill the requisite death sentence against our own person.
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. 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 (John 1:1-14). “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (verse 1). “All things were made by him, and without him was not any thing made that was made” (verse 3). This “Word was made flesh and dwelt among us” (verse 14). The fullness of God was in Him. “For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily” (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. “Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:6-7).
And so Jesus was born. His assignment was manifold. He was to prepare for His role as the compassionate High Priest for His people by immersing himself in 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 empathy for us. “Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest … For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succor them that are tempted” (Hebrews 2:17-18). He was to reveal the Father to us. 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. “But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God” (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 painted Father God as harsh and demanding.
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. “…by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.” (Hebrews 9:12).
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. “…the hour is come; behold, the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners” (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 was, “It is finished” (John 19:30). The Greek word this is translated from is the same word that was stamped in those days on a debt when it was paid in full.
Because of Jesus Christ
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. “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1). Because of Jesus.
I am eternally grateful.
“For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scripture; and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures (I Corinthians 15:3-4). Jesus is risen! Praises to God!
Author’s note: Edited May 2017. Some superfluous paragraphs removed, further scriptures added.