The Pain of Forgiveness

The message of the cross can be a big barrier for those investigating the Christian faith.

“Why would the God of love devise a plan that included horrible suffering?” somebody asks.

“Is this not like child sacrifice of ancient religions which the Bible itself condemns?” ponders another.

“How can a scene of blood and gore stand as the symbol of a faith which claims to be the way of peace?” someone else objects.

We live in a world where many people are offended by the thought of an insect dying, so we shouldn’t be overly surprised that when we proclaim that the blood of Jesus saves us, people might be a bit bewildered and even offended. Even among believers, it is increasingly said that the language of Jesus as a sacrifice is old, outdated, and no longer relevant to our world today.

But the cross is not a scene out of a gory novel. Interestingly, the Bible does not provide a gruesome depiction of the events. We find this in the movie The Passion of the Christ, but the Bible really does not give any detailed description. Compared to other portions of the Gospels, there is very little detail provided about the crucifixion itself. Instead, what is emphasized in the Bible is that there is a great cost for forgiveness. Forgiveness by its very nature involves suffering and a cost.

Let’s say that somebody drives a vehicle into your property, knocking over a gate and causing other damages. What will you do? You might require that the person pay for all that which was damaged. You might tell the person that you will take care of all of it yourself. Or, there might be a middle-of-the-road approach in which you both work together to fix the problem. The point is, whenever someone does wrong, there is a price that must be paid. At times, the price might be economical. Other times, it might be emotional or physical, but there is always some sort of price when one person does wrong to another.

The worldview presented in the Bible is one in which we have wronged God. God has created all things and given us everything that we need. But we have rejected God and tried to do things our own way (Romans 3:23). This is what we call sin. Because of sin, a price must be paid for restitution and reconciliation. Even our experience tells us that this is how things work. The problem is, I have nothing to bring before God. I cannot make a payment for sin. Even though I’m the one who broke the relationship, I cannot do anything of myself to restore the relationship.

Let’s return to the cross. At the cross we see God fully paying the price in the person of Jesus. Sin is when I put myself where God deserves to be. The cross, however, is when God put Himself where I deserve to be.

The gospel, the good news, is that God was willing to pay the price, regardless of how much it might cost, so that we could have the opportunity to be forgiven. That’s how much He loves us. The only proper response is for me to put my selfishness to death, and live a new life of sacrificial love (Romans 6:1-23).