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Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/books/entry_id/982257-Pondering-the-Crucifiction
Rated: E · Book · Writing · #2044345
Writing about what I have been reading and encountering in the media.
#982257 added April 28, 2020 at 12:43pm
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Pondering the Crucifiction
Ponderings about forgiveness and the crucifixion. 04/26/20

Recently, I said aloud to church friends, “I don’t want anyone to die for my sins. They are my responsibility.” I have said this a number of times before. This time, however, was different because I was talking to people of faith. What I said has been hanging around rather than fading away like most talk does. I have decided to write about it and see where I go.

Jesus was brutally murdered publicly, and his murder was sanctioned by both his faith community and the state. He was not convicted of any serious crime. He was murdered by people who feared him, who feared the power he was building with the people, and who felt attacked by his message. He never tried to escape. He never backed away from his message. He didn’t engage in self-defense. Instead of “standing his ground,” he stood in his faith. Even from the Cross, he continued to teach, to pray for the least of his brethren, and he made plans for the care of his mother, from the cross. This bothers me, a lot. The story is so sad, so horrific, I can hardly stand to focus on it long enough to write this.

But then, there is this thing called the resurrection. Almost as if nothing had happened, he appeared alive after being put into the grave. He just walked into death and back out of it, just like that! And, more remarkable, he didn’t come back mad or vengeful. He came back and stood in his faith. Then, he did the most amazing thing: he simply offered peace to his disciples and asked them to bring forgiveness to the world. He didn’t remind them of the things he’d been teaching them. He didn’t try to control their emotions or behavior. He simply said, “peace be with you,” and “forgive sins.”

I look at the story of his crucifixion and resurrection and I cannot see how that is him saving me from my sins. What I see is him setting an example of how to be a person of faith. I see that even torture could not make him stop loving humans. Thus, it is easy for me to believe that I have a positive source of strength available to me as it was available to him. This source of strength saw him through the worst life can offer and through to the other side without losing his soul. He didn’t take my sins away. He demonstrated how to rise up out of human sin into peace. He taught us that sins are forgivable. He commanded his followers to forgive sins. He guides us from sin into forgiveness. In this way, he leaves us with a clear path and a command to follow it.

As a teenager with issues that seemed unsolvable to me, instead of forgiveness, I longed for a clean heart. I sang words from Psalm 51 over and over in my mind, in my voice, and in my movement as I walked:

10. Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
11. Cast me not away from Your presence;
take not Your Holy Spirit from me.
12. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation,
and sustain me with your free spirit.

I really didn’t know what a clean heart would be. The church told me that it is a heart that has received forgiveness. My problem was so hard for me to define; that definition of “clean heart” just didn’t seem correct. Forgiveness from or by God was not then and is not now my primary need. I am confident that the life source which we call God is not sitting around wanting to chastise me for my sins. In addition, Jesus didn’t tell his disciples to take care of God’s problem with wrath. He said, “as I was sent by the Father, so I send you.” Send them to do what? It appears he commanded them to forgive and to bring peace. I think my need has always fallen in the latter category. I need peace in my heart. Peace, then, seems to be my best definition of a clean heart.

As a teen, I was angry and living in a world that forbids anger. This felt like everyone was telling me not to exist as I am, but instead, to pretend I was someone else. I became skilled at pretending I wasn’t angry while expressing my anger very indirectly in ways I never suspected were anger. All the time I kept singing and saying, “create in me a clean heart O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” I don’t remember if I thought of it as a prayer, but clearly it is prayer. All I wanted was to be free of all that anger.

As I went through life, I resolved some of it: you know the kind I mean. I was mad at my mother for having her own wants and needs that differed from mine. I was mad at my brothers for calling me a girl making it sound like an insult and shutting me out of their doings. It took some work to get through those issues, but I did. However, instead of my anger decreasing, it was increasing. I became rageful. I had to curtail many social activities because I would get into arguments with people I didn’t even know.

Working as a Social Worker had a lot to do with my rage building. I was seeing so much injustice and so much pain in good people who had the connection to the spirit alive and well in them, but who were being hurt over and over. They looked like one Christ after another, hanging on the cross, and they wanted to forgive. Too often, their gift for forgiveness just left them more vulnerable. So, by the time I retired, I was so full of rage, I was toxic to myself and had to be very careful around others.

Those wounded people were not dying for anyone’s sins. They didn’t need to be tortured. The people mistreating didn’t need to hurt them. So, it is very hard for me to see how Jesus’ murder on the cross has anything to do with my need for any gifts from God. Nor does it make any sense to me that a being that can invent a universe and live within it can’t forgive without creating the disastrous end to Jesus’ life. The crucifixion seems to be less about getting forgiveness from God to us, and more like a way to show how forgiving is done in the human world.

I think that Jesus came to teach us how to forgive. He came to teach us the nature of forgiveness. He came to put the power of forgiveness into us so that we would stop torturing each other.

I learned a lot about that over time. I forgive those who mistreat me. Sometimes it takes quite a while, but I can’t say I carry any old grudges about hurts sent my way. What I have trouble forgiving is what people do to others. I need that rage cleansed from my heart. What will remain when the rage is gone? Peace. But it seems wrong to be at peace when others continue to suffer. This is where I get stuck.

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