Beauty That Saves the World
In the ugliest experience of human existence – death by crucifixion – God reveals Himself in Christ as absolute, unconditional, self-giving love. At Calvary, all of the ugliness of the world – its greed and pride and lust and hate and cruelty and violence – is poured into Christ. And, upon the cross, Jesus turns all of this ugliness into the beauty of forgiving love. This is the greatest of miracles, and nothing is more beautiful.
… From a post-resurrection vantage point, we understand that the action of Christ in forgiving His enemies on the cross was not foolish or delusional but the beauty that saves the world. The resurrection is God's endorsement of forgiving love. (Unconditional p. 191-192)
I find this insight powerfully resonating with all that God has been teaching me for the last half of my life. For so many years the concepts and teachings promoted about the meaning and reasons for the cross simply made little to no sense for me. So many of them were conflicting and contradictory and whenever I tried to ask questions to make sense out the nonsense I was usually given a cliché and told to just have more faith in the inscrutable wisdom of God. But that did nothing to awaken the kind of love in my heart that I was told was supposed to occur when one dwells on the story of the cross.
But over recent years the real truth about Jesus and why He came and why He died and how all of that reveals the truth about the Father's heart toward deceived sinners has all been emerging into the light for me. And the more I learn about the real truth about the cross, reasons never offered to me by anyone before, the more sense everything else is making.
This beginning quotation – indeed this whole book – has been one of the refreshing sources that has enlightened my mind and stirred my heart with increased light and truth about God and salvation. As I reread this passage again today it struck me how powerful the real truth is about why Jesus did what He did while on the way to the cross. To realize that the cross had nothing whatsoever to do with appeasing an angry God but rather was an overwhelming demonstration of how much love will endure without wavering or weakening has enormous potential to draw on hearts when it begins to really soak in. To keep loving and forgiving no matter how viciously or evil one is treated is the ultimate demonstration of love that is impossible for us to appreciate enough. It was a signal victory over all the claims that Satan has insinuated in so many false allegations against God and His government and His character.
As this truth sunk in even deeper into my consciousness, it suddenly struck me how ridiculous it is to believe that when Jesus comes back again next time that somehow He is going to suddenly do things differently than He did the first time. Yet considering most of the teachings and scenarios about the Second Coming and/or the Day of Judgment, they are nearly unanimous in inferring that when God comes again next time He is going to take a very different approach to sin and sinners and will begin to act more forcefully, more aggressively and with no mercy on those who have rejected Him.
Yet when I even try to consider the possibility that such notions might be true, all such ideas quickly wipe out completely the glorious victory of the cross as described above. To entertain the idea that God will change His mind and turn away from love to some lesser motives to 'get even' with His enemies is to undermine all that was achieved at the cross. All the teachings of Jesus and all the pain and suffering that He endured in order to reveal to the entire universe the real truth about God's unconditional, unrelenting and irrepressible love all becomes empty and hollow when such beliefs are entertained.
It is impossible to reconcile these two views of God no matter how much people may attempt to do so. Either God is all love and forgives unconditionally as Jesus and His disciples taught, or else He is two-faced and unpredictable and fickle as the great accuser has convinced us He is. Either Jesus actually taught and demonstrated the truth about His Father and His character that will stand for all eternity as an irrefutable testimony of the truth about Him, or all that He came to show us about the Father was just a mirage to entice us into believing an illusion and the rest of the story is much worse and is yet to come as so many try to lead us to believe.
If it is true, as most theologians, preachers and religious leaders teach, that the rest of the story will reveal a darker side of God that Jesus failed to reveal up through the cross, then Jesus did not really show us the Father as accurately as He said He did. He must have only shown us the good side of God and left the dark side for another revelation on a day of vengeance and terror and retribution. And that is exactly what most Christians are taught even though it flies in the face of what Jesus revealed both in His teachings and in the way He related to sinners.
The arguments that most rely on to cling to such views of God usually are based on the notion that it seems impossible to fully reconcile Jesus with the perceived God presented in the Old Testament. But what many do is to make the mistake of trying to compromise and mingle the two conflicting versions to come up with a strange amalgamated god-concept that contains both attributes similar to Jesus but also much similar to the character of His arch-enemy.
How blasphemous dare we be? How insolent to paint God with the brush of the great accuser just because we don't know enough about Him yet. If there is any incongruity between the God of the Old Testament and Jesus we must always choose Jesus' version first and challenge every other opinion vigorously until we find how it submits totally and completely within the teachings and example of Jesus. Anything less than this is to destroy the very testimony of Christ and the power of the gospel.
Indeed, let God be true but every man a liar. As it is written: "That You may be justified in Your words, and may overcome when You are judged." (Romans 3:4 NKJV)