Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Atonement, Hump Day Hmm

Today's Hump Day Hmm invites us to discuss atonement. I have a lot of feelings on this subject, especially because the word itself holds special meaning to my faith. Easter Sunday I gave a talk based largely on this article, which gives a wonderful explanation of the atonement of Jesus Christ. I avoid writing about my faith on this blog for my own reasons, but I could not write about the subject of atonement without acknowledging how much it affects my life.

When I consider the power of the atonement of Christ, the most selfless act in all of human history, I am ashamed of how unlikely it is that something even remotely similar might happen in the life of the average person today. Most people are outraged at the idea of having to pay for someone else's mistakes. Courts are filled with case after case of disputes between two or more parties who disagree on who should pay for some damage, some dispute, or some grievance. Yet here is a man without sin, who made no mistakes in his life, committed no wrong, who chooses to accept a horrifying, terrible punishment at the hands of an illegal tribunal in the dark of night and then a torturous death the next day. Documentaries get made about men serving on death row who were incorrectly found guilty and sentenced to death. Jesus was found guilty of crimes he did not commit and he freely carried his own instrument of death to his execution.

I draw a broader comparison on the atonement when I consider broken relationships. So often marriages, friendships, or even families are torn apart because one party committed some "unforgivable sin." "She cheated on me with my best friend." "He stole my idea and made millions off of it." "They didn't invite me to their party." "He told Dad what I said about him." or one of my favorites, "He wouldn't buy me my own Coke at the movie theater." How easily we find error in others and forever lose trust in them, or perhaps even in all people. But again, Christ showed a better way. He sought out the less fortunate, the down trodden of society, the sinful, and he lifted them up. Even those who openly abused his friendship and love received nothing but respect from him. He taught people how to bring themselves out of problems, instead of looking for ways to find fault. I know in my life, I have pushed away friends who I felt asked too much of me, and certainly those who did me wrong more than once. Granted, I am (I think) a very forgiving person who lets my friends get away with a lot of mistreatment, but I still have a habit of removing people from my life who do me wrong. While I don't think Christ expects me to suffer repeated mistreatments at the hands of abusers, I also know that he did just that without complaint.

I know I am a long way from being as good a person as Christ. I know I make plenty of mistakes in life, especially with regard to those closest to me. I am just glad that I have such a positive role model to look up to, and to enjoy a relationship with. I am most glad that Christ did atone for my sins, and I do my best to follow his teachings as I reach out to the world around me, sharing love, kindness, and teaching. If only we could all follow his ways.

-- Robert


Julie Pippert said...

One of the things that "gets" me the most about some people and religion is this idea of "What would Jesus do?" being twisted around backwards.

By that I mean people doing these things, these things that are sometimes horrible or not good, and then justifying it somehow back to Jesus.

Thank you, thank you, thank you for writing about it, writing about living a life, that looks at it frontwards.

I agree; in the end we can try to live our best towards the model of compassion, respect, courtesy and caring.

The concept at the heart of the angle of atonement you write about is two-fold of ultimate compassion and gratitude.

So important, these things.

Julie Pippert said...

P.S. I got the Mr. Linky up and added in your link.

Robert said...

I agree, that so many think of the atonement as a grand slate-cleaner, and don't necessarily examine how it should change their behavior going forward. Too many "Christian" churches teach of an atonement that, once accepted, means blanket forgiveness for everything, regardless of future acts. That idea of an atonement greatly disturbs me, and I had to write about it. Thanks for the comments, and thanks for adding me back in. I went to do it, and saw you already had.

le35 said...

I loved this post. I love that it shows an example of what my behavior should look like. I think too often, we write or talk about an idea, and we come to some conclusion about what's right or wrong, but we don't talk about how that should shape our future behavior. Great post!

Robert said...

Thanks. I know I don't live up to the standards I discuss, but I do my best to work to be more and more like them each day.

michael said...

Thank you for that post. When I think of what Christ went through, I am simply amazed. Though I also have a long way to go, I am also grateful there is a perfect example that I can try to follow. I have also read the article that you linked to, and it is very good.

Robert said...

I really enjoyed that article, and enjoyed sharing a talk on it. It is great to have such a wonderful example to follow. Maybe one day we'll get there.