I’ve had some difficulty with the Christian message over the years. For some people that I know, their belief seems to come easily. They accept, as they should to an extent, the things taught to them by their parents, the story of the Christian faith, and the values that have been transmitted to them.
Not me. I’ve fought it. Sure, I’ve had my moments of child-like faith and humble obedience, but more often than not, I’ve wrestled with things that I was supposed to believe… I’ve questioned things that shouldn’t be questioned.
One of the hardest things for me to fully embrace on my spiritual journey was the idea that one innocent man’s death could possibly be payment for all the wrongs that I had done. I mean, how does that even work? He was crucified two thousand years ago under the Roman empire, and yet somehow his blood is supposed to cover my wrongs? For a long time it seemed to me inconceivable that a punishment placed upon someone else who lived thousands of years before I did was enough to take care of the crap that I had done. How is that just? How is that fair? How does that reveal that God is a God of justice?
I never got the crucifixion that I deserve… the penance to which my own soul felt obligated.
Some people throughout history have believed this, and have resulted to punishing themselves for their own sin. The pre-Reformation Catholic church sold indulgences to people. The monks of ascetic monasticism whipped themselves.
For me, my obligation led me deeper and deeper into sin. After all, if I deserve to be punished, I might as well punish myself by engaging in addictive behaviors…allowing myself to be a slave to the self-punishing, sinful fixations that became so prevalent in my life.
I can’t really pinpoint where or when it was, and indeed, am not even sure there was a specific moment or point in time that I realized it, but somewhere along the road I discovered grace. I discovered that the cross of Jesus isn’t fair or just. It doesn’t make sense. Its not conceivable. Its not something that can be earned or deserved… it can only be accepted. The grace that a person has to accept comes in that moment where they realize that they are a receiver to a gift they did not deserve, an honored guest at a party to which they were not invited, and a benefactor to an inheritance to which they had no right.
For me, it was found in the realization that, when merely accepted as unearnable, the blood of Jesus works. It is enough. It is sufficient for the payment of sin. That realization for me was life-altering.