Shedding of Blood
And according to the Law, one may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. (Hebrews 9:22)
I have been grappling for years to perceive from heaven's viewpoint what the death of Christ on the cross really meant in the context of the real truth about God. Nearly every belief that I have ever heard taught on this subject is riddled with insinuations inferring that God is out for blood, is eager for punishment and uses at least some of the tactics of the enemy of perfect righteousness.
As I prayed and searched my own heart this morning and meditated on this even more deeply, something clicked inside of my mind that I want to grasp better. The above text has caused uneasiness in my heart for many years because it seems to reinforce the dark views of God that I can no longer embrace as truth. But now an underlying assumption is leaking out along with better insight as to what must be true.
I have been convinced that Jesus did not die to appease the Father in the slightest way. I have made that clear in my writings and discussions for years. So why then, is there so much insistence on the shedding of blood in 'the law' which is supposed to be a transcript of God's character? If Jesus came to this earth with the primary purpose of exposing the real truth about God's unconditional love, forgiveness, mercy, fairness and compassion, then what did this exhibition of bloody torture and death have to do with revealing the heart of the Father?
What has been the blind spot in our thinking about the death of Jesus and the necessity of blood-shedding has been a human obsession with the idea that reality and life and justice is all about revenge or punishments. We are such legalists, whether religious or otherwise, that it is nearly impossible to think outside of that very narrow box of thinking.
At the same time I have been learning for years that my heart relationship with God is what matters far more than my behavioral performance in keeping any list of rules. No matter how well I may be able to maintain compliance with what is deemed righteous or acceptable by whomever, it is the connection or lack of it between my own heart and the heart of my Creator that will determine whether I will be able to spend eternity with Him in heaven or whether I will find myself angry and bitter outside the gates questioning the wisdom and fairness of God.
What has been clarifying in my mind for a number of years is that the real issue at the core of the sin problem is not my behavior or compliance with rules but is God's reputation and His vindication in the charges leveled against Him by Lucifer in heaven long ago. These accusations have been imprinted into the minds and hearts of all born into this sinful world. At our core we feel that God is not always fair; maybe sometimes, but there always comes circumstances that flush out our inner doubts about His justice and compassion and fairness. It doesn't take long to uncover stories or experiences in our lives that raise insurmountable emotions objecting to the acceptance of a completely fair and loving God.
I am realizing that sin is the inherent tendency for me to doubt God's goodness at the heart level in any respect. And those doubts are all based on lies about God that seem very provable from tragic circumstances that take place every day in this world. “If God is so good, then why...” These questions cannot be swept under the rug by stern demands to ignore them or twisted logic invented to try to rationalize away apparently obvious facts. There has to be something far more effective to answer the really tough questions about God's fairness and integrity than the answers produced by pretty much every religion found on this earth.
Here is where it gets very slippery. As soon as I start to talk about the ultimate demonstration produced by God in answer to these most difficult questions, our many false assumptions about it kick into gear and prevent us from being able to think clearly. But yet it is true that the life and death of Jesus who came as God's representative to this world to reveal the heart of the Godhead to all of us is the ultimate answer that will eventually satisfy every question no matter how complicated or painful.
But what does blood have to do with this? How did the shedding of Jesus' blood during the last hours of His earthly life prove the love of the Father if it was not as an appeasement for a bloodthirsty God wanting vengeance on His enemies as many suppose? Some of this is just now coming into focus even as I write this. Another verse from Hebrews just came to my attention.
For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin. (Hebrews 12:3-4)
Deductive logic will point out here that Jesus evidently resisted to the point of shedding blood. But my question is, what was it that He was resisting? The answer to that question may not only unmask a great deal of hidden truth but will also open my perspective on many things that may happen in my own life.
We have an expression in this country that says, “Put your money where your mouth is.” What does this mean? It usually means that talk is cheap, another common expression, but if you are really serious and authentic you will not change your tune when the objections become intense, when the lies sound overwhelmingly convincing, when all the evidence seems to indicate that you are the problem and that you are the one out of step with reality, that your version of the story is inaccurate.
When Jesus showed up on this planet it quickly became obvious that His way of thinking and relating to others was dramatically out of step with the way we do things here. In some ways He seemed to blend in, growing up in a poor environment and living as an obedient son in a peasant family. But as His character become more pronounced and His reputation expanded it became obvious that His ideas about reality and what God was like and His attitudes towards sinners was radically out of step with the mainstream. No one was in full sympathy with His views or teachings about God and spirituality, and the more He taught and practiced His style of religion the more controversy He stirred up.
Jesus' life on this earth was the ultimate clash between heaven's view of religion and human ideas about it. It doesn't matter whether a person is necessarily religious or not, every person has opinions about what God is like and every person has been born into a world filled with lies about Him that has deeply affected their relationships with everyone around them. We treat each other based on how we subconsciously believe that God treats us, even if we claim to not even believe there is a God.
Likewise, Jesus treated everyone around Him based on His belief of how He felt God related to Him. Beyond that, He was not just in very intimate fellowship with God the Father everyday of His life but He was actually God incarnated as a human being so we could better perceive Him in our context of living. But the things we see in His life and the way He related to people and the teachings that He brought into this world clashed irreconcilably with our deeply held beliefs about life and about God. It is impossible to force a compromise between the original teachings and demonstrations of Jesus about what is real and true with that of our own. Either we have to abandon our assumptions and beliefs about reality and allow God to dwell in us and transform us with His insights and Spirit, or we will resist those revelations of God in favor of our more familiar ones and will insist that our version of reality is more accurate.
So the real bottom line is, who's version of reality and truth is going to win anytime the two sides finally meet in a showdown between force and love? Which side will be left standing when the battle between heaven's methods of control are confronted by the counterfeit methods of fear, intimidation and deception? Will the claims of Jesus about a loving God who never resorts to force to get His way, who never imposes His will over our freedom to choose, who claims that love alone is stronger than death – will these be able to resist the claims of our world that love is not enough to produce obedience and compliance? Just what was it that Jesus was resisting on His way to the cross?
I am choosing to not follow that question at the moment because the real point I want to watch here is that, whatever it was that Jesus was proving about God and reality, He was willing to stick to His version of the story all the way through torture and to the point of death without changing it in the slightest degree. No amount of intimidation, torture, threats, shame or anything else that men or demons could invent ever changed the message that Jesus came to reveal about the true feelings and attitudes that exist in the heart of the Father towards us.
Now I am just starting to see a little more clearly that when the law talks about the necessity of the shedding of blood it is talking about the need to stick to the right story even in the face of all threats or pain or opposition. It is all in how we look at it, where we are coming to it from, the context in which we view it all. If we think that life is about rules and compliance and punishments, then we will assume that the shedding of blood is about appeasement. But if it is about sticking to your story no matter how much pressure there is for you to change it, then Jesus' death takes on a completely different dimension.
When a person is willing to maintain their version of the truth in the face of all opposition and pressure to adopt a different version, then we generally tend to assume that that person has more credibility than someone who can be pressured to change their story under threat and duress. The whole battle between Christ and Satan that envelopes the universe and is being played out primarily on this planet revolves around the credibility of God and His love and His ways of governing.
The only way that God could elicit the respect and believability needed for us to accept His version of the truth was to demonstrate to us the very love that He claims is enough to govern His universe. But it had to be done in a way that we could relate to as humans. So He came to this earth to be a human, to become credible in our eyes, and then continued to humble Himself to the point of shedding His blood under the most cruel and unfair circumstances possible without wavering in His passionate love for us even for a moment. And that shedding of His blood was the direct result of humanity acting out the principles of reality that we have believed are the foundation of truth and reality.
The pressure on Jesus was to admit that at any one of God's claims about reality might be slightly defective and that the counterfeit system might be correct on some point. If Satan could get Jesus to alter His beliefs or position in the slightest, then Satan would boast that his claims of a defective system in heaven was justified and he was vindicated in introducing an alternative way of governing.
But Jesus did not change His story anywhere along the way and He stuck to His version of the truth about reality all the way to the point of death. By doing so it became obvious to all who had a mind to reason that it was Satan that had the faulty system, not God.
Since that time Satan has managed to pervert our ideas about the true meaning of the cross, and its enormous significance has been largely obscured by new lies surrounding it. But as we discover and are transformed by the truth about God's goodness and righteousness and love in our own lives, we too may be called upon to stick to His story all the way to the point of bloodshed. We may have to love our enemies even while they are doing everything possible to get us to act like them instead of like Jesus.
...without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. Forgiveness is the reality that God has never held a grudge against us and never will. Forgiveness is the absence of holding onto offense. Sin is the separation that occurs whenever an offense is allowed to linger in the heart. By allowing His credibility to be proven through the shedding of His own blood by those full of offense against Him, Jesus proved that God's love really is more effective than fear, than violence, than force or deception. God has been right all along and He proved it by letting us torture and kill Him without any resentment or offense.
For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, WHO COMMITTED NO SIN, NOR WAS ANY DECEIT FOUND IN HIS MOUTH; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously. (1 Peter 2:21-23)
What did Jesus resist? He resisted the temptation to revile those who reviled Him; He resisted the urges to threaten anyone who caused Him suffering. That is the good news about God that Jesus came to reveal even to the point of letting us shed His blood while torturing Him to death. He let us do it to Him to prove that God loves us no matter how much we believe the lies about Him and act out those lies.
When Jesus spoke the following truths, He was not just giving instructions for our behavior; He was describing what He and His Father are like and always will be.
But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you. You have heard that it was said, 'YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:39-45, 48)
Jesus lived out these principles all the way to giving His blood to prove them to be true and faithful. In doing so He provided the remission of sins – the elimination of all the excuses and reasons we might have to believe that God does not completely love us unconditionally. He also introduced the ministry of full reconciliation by His own blood. How is this? Because He allowed us, even me, to do all of the above things to Him without resisting us or reflecting our attitudes and spirit.
I want to experience this with my own heart, not just perceive it with my mind. Heal me too, Father.