It was easy to write in a detached manner, and necessary in order to clarify an overall view of general doctrine.
But now comes the “difficulty”, to try and represent the “heart and soul” of life and death.
I wrote of wrath and sin as being cause and effect. But we must look deeper than that.
Jesus said in Matthew 18-34 “And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers, until he should repay all that was owed him. 35 So shall my heavenly Father also do to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart”. [ later edit – see also Matthew 13-42 ]
Now this is heavy duty communication, and as much as we could try to rationalise it back to cause and effect rather than punishment, we cannot avoid the heavy emotional impact that these words carry.
All the “wrath” traits are there. The master is angry with his servant, because the servant has acted poorly in not showing mercy after he himself has been shown mercy. The servant has gone against the nature of, and the wishes (will) of, the master. He has denied the nature and integrity, the love, of the master, and has, by operating independently of the master’s will, denied his will, his very existence, and purpose.
“Forgiving from the heart”. This brings in the whole nature of God and his love and forgiveness. What is this “heart” from which the servant was to bring forth forgiveness. What is the core nature of the operation of man or God that might desire to release another person from an obligation or sense of guilt or dread or fear, and to what end, with what result and for what purpose?
That forgiveness is available at all is an amazing thing. Having begun to open the subject of passion and emotion, I must still try to analyse its operation, since it is [at the heart of] the gospel. After all, the “kingdom of God” is essentially the direct result of forgiveness, so it must be powerful stuff.
When something has gone wrong, there has to be a corrective action to repair it, to restore it. When man’s “heart” has gone wrong, it suggests a change has occurred from one state to another. We see Adam’s change of state from innocence to guilty. The purity of thought and the simplicity and beauty of communication between two entities that once was, becomes changed, defiled, and ugly. Paradise lost.
This loss cannot be restored without an overiding “something” that can bring about restoration. The subject of betrayal springs to mind. If our sin was a betrayal of the innocent one, then it will take an action BY the “innocent one” to bring about restoration. The “master” or “lord” (the servant’s boss) had declared that it was in his nature to accept the loss caused by the servant, to the detriment of his (the master’s) situation. The “betrayal” of the truth of the master’s merciful nature, happened when the servant failed to pass that merciful nature along to the next person.
We see the “betrayal” as posed by Judas. We also see betrayal of truth and integrity involved when the Jews rejected Jesus and released Barabbas. We see Adam’s betrayal of God when he turned from him to follow his own desire.
So betrayal and denial are similar things. When we look at the “action of the heart”, or in other words, the “core mechanism” of man and God, we discover that it comes down to this simple matter of self desire, to the operation of a mechanism within man, that is simply caught up in self satisfaction, self indulgence, That the heart of man is given over to the production of anything and everything that is NOT of God, and is what is called “evil”.
All of this rubbish that the human heart is busily churning out at the rate of knots, is unsustainable, not only because man has a limited lifetime, but because it does not fit into the eternal, the “forever” pattern. It will not survive the final “integrity test”, it does not conform to the “nature of the universe” which is shortly to reclaim its territory and reveal its prize.
This deficient core nature of man has to change, and it can only do this by self recognition of its deficiencies, that self [ itself] has “gone wrong” and needs to be “fixed”.
So “desire” is perhaps the basic building block of the human form or platform, since it emerges from a static or latent and innocuous position, and takes on a life of its own, becomes an entity in itself which demands all manner of satisfaction but which is never satisfied, and never can be.
It is necessary to turn this desire around, and “give it new eyes”, that it can see the truth about itself and take on a new form of self realisation, where survival is, and “self” realisation is obtained, embraced, but which comes through the submergence of self into “other self”, the “self” of God.
The cross does this very thing by presenting to us the reality of life and death, and presenting it through the power of love.
What then is the “passion” of the heart, and what are its manifestations? What was the resolution of the major and overwhelming passion of the cross, the “passion” of Jesus? What was the relationship between this passion and our sin, and what was the relationship between his passion and our punishment?
In the sense that man senses wrath, guilt, and fear, and to the varying extent of the state of his conscience; then he is already involved in the state of passion that is endemic to the world. When we talk of “torture” or punishment as denoted by the parable mentioned, we are already touching on those things in which the “torture” of the human “soul”, has already begun.
The realisation of this anguish within man, is also portrayed in other scripture, and has been greatly exhibited throughout man’s culture in art and literature. It is simply talking about the reality of the pain and suffering that is the result of man’s operation on the earth, the manifestation of wrongdoing, and the reality of what that truly means and how it is experienced. For God to “forgive”, means he has to deal with this reality, he cannot brush it under the carpet, it is real, and man himself would testify to that reality. In fact, man himself is a testament to that reality.
And so we see this reality on the cross.
To what degree can we say that Jesus took away this pain and punishment. Did he remove it, or did he simply reveal it? [later edit – in the process of removing its inevitability, he revealed it]
Is it enough for man to come to an acknowledgement of this pain and suffering within himself? Is the whole thing about dealing with this reality, an issue of actually DEALING with it IN reality? Is it necessary for man to somehow be brought to the point of complete confrontation with this reality in order for it to be eliminated from his being?
The fact of Jesus taking it all on board does not alter the fact that man himself is also wearing the problem within himself.
The problem within man can only be removed as man recognises that it exists and that it needs to be removed. He has to DESIRE that.
So how did/does Jesus “take it away”? He removed NOTHING, and nothing has directly changed within man other than perhaps he becomes aware of the cross. He has to become aware of what it MEANS.
INDIRECTLY, EVERYTHING has changed. But this indirectness has to become directness. The truth has to activate passion. The passion of the cross has to strike a spark within the heart of man, the Spirit of truth has to be allowed to dawn and rise in this sad lost heart, that knows defeat and homelessness. The cross has to become a cry for reality to take over the lie. It needs to scream out THIS WAS YOUR LIFE WHICH IS NOW YOUR DEATH, so it can then be turned around into THIS IS YOUR DEATH WHICH HAS BECOME YOUR LIFE. The offer of the truth of life only comes with the demand for the acknowledgement of the truth of death. And it needs to scream out as being the activity of love.
What then, mean the passions of the heart? The incessant portrayal of romantic love on film and TV, speaks of the unresolved passion of the heart. The tragedy of life and death, of hate and greed and all manner of evil, comes from the issue of the tragedy of the heart.
Love has to be recognised and submitted to. Maybe it is only the hard times that enable us to recognise the good times. But maybes are not good enough. It was not a “maybe” that sent Christ to the cross, it was definitive love. It was the paramount passion of all passions that caused this man to die for us. It was his purpose to serve the eternal purpose, to cause us to join him in that same purpose, the restoration of mankind to a state of truth love integrity and purpose.
The gospel of love is the gospel of the Kingdom of God, and that Kingdom is the very nature of love himself.
I guess I got off the “punishment” track. It simply means that there is a reality we can’t escape. If we play footloose and fancy free with the truth of love, then we will know the pain and hurt of non-love. We have to deal with it while we still draw breath, while we have opportunity to be real, to own up to those things IN us that we know are grievous to both man and God.
Christ bore all, FOR all, and our recognition of this, and the accepting of this, will mean we will allow his authoritative cleansing become effective in us even as he effected it in himself. And that cleansing will place all of our former life on the alter of his death, which is his cross, that we might become in him, “the righteousness of God”.
TO BE CONTINUED IN “RISING TO LIFE (Wrath III)”
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