Thursday, April 5, 2007

Was the Cross Really Necessary?

Do you ever look at words and wonder how it came to be that those particular sounds came to have certain meaning?
Forgive, is one such word I have been curious about and a little research revealed that the root of our word ‘forgive’ comes from two Old English words, ’for’ meaning ‘away, off’ and ‘giefen’ meaning ‘to give, to grant’. Putting the two words together gave the meaning ‘to give away’. That earliest meaning dates from 900 AD. From there the word meaning evolved to mean the canceling of debt and then also to include offences.

To forgive – to ‘give away’….. give away offences? Hurts, wrongs committed against us, debts owed, - ‘give them away’?
The verse comes to mind in Psalm 103:12 where David rejoices that “as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.”
To be forgiven ! From the time we were little children, we have understood the concept of forgiveness. It means we are OK again, we are safe within a relationship, we are still loved.

Have you ever wondered , as I have, why God sent Jesus to die on the cross so we could find forgiveness for our sins?
Could God not simply have made a decree stating that if we but believed in Him, He would declare our sins to be forgiven? Then Jesus would never have had to suffer the horrible indignation of death on the cruel cross.
For a time I was content simply to accept the fact that the cross was the means God chose by which to declare our sins to be forgiven.
But then, I realized that there was a much more compelling reason why Jesus came to make the ultimate sacrifice.

Forgiveness is often understood as the wiping out of a debt. But that is taking a very narrow view of forgiveness revealing only half of the equation.
Consider the following scenarios:
You have a large loan you find you cannot repay, and the lender forgives your debt. You go free but the lender is left ‘paying’ the debt.
You accidentally (or otherwise) damage someone’s property and they forgive you. You go free , but they have to pay for the replacement or repair of their property.
You are careless behind the wheel and cause the car to leave the highway and crash into a pole, seriously injuring your passenger who will as a consequence never walk again. The passenger forgives you .You go free but the person you injured will pay for the rest of his life.
You start a rumor about your neighbour than is not true and it damages her reputation . She forgives you but she must live with the damage you caused.
So you see, forgiveness does not wipe out a debt, it simply transfers the burden of payment from the guilty to the innocent party. It restores a relationship but does not ‘undo’ the debt incurred.

When you or I sin, we violate God’s standard of righteousness. We consequently owe a debt we cannot pay, it is too large – we cannot undo the sin and sin cannot enter the holy presence of God.
We seldom think of the fact that no man sins alone. My sin has a rippling effect of consequences put into motion, that may continue even after I am forgiven. Only God knows how much pain and reactionary sin my original sinful action or words caused.
Sin is serious, and it cannot simply be ‘undone’.

In Joshua 24:19 there is a statement Joshua makes in his last words to Israel before his death. He says, “You cannot serve the Lord, for He is a holy God. He is a jealous God. He will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins.”
God will not forgive? No. The penalty must be paid, the responsibility for payment of the debt incurred must be shouldered by someone.
It is only because God is a God of Love, of compassion , of mercy, that He could not bear to let us perish in our sins.

If Jesus had not been willing to suffer in our place , you and I would have had no recourse but to spend eternity in hell, separated forever from God.
I love the words of a song, "I owed a debt I could not pay, He paid a debt he did not owe."

We see Jesus in the garden, praying in agony of soul , begging the Father if there was ANY OTHER WAY, that He would spare him the cruel suffering.
Don’t you think that God would have answered Jesus’ prayer if there was another way?
Jesus’ agony in the garden was recorded for us so we could know the severity of the penalty for sin, so we grasp something of what it cost God to take upon Himself the responsibility to pay the debt that separated us from Him.

I am so grateful , so eternally grateful for what God was willing to do for me , to suffer the death that I deserved. His forgiveness allowed me to be restored into relationship with Him.

“To show my gratitude, Lord, may I forgive even as I am forgiven!” (Matt.6:11)

“..Having forgiven you all trespasses, blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross.” (Col.2:13b,14)

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