“He carried in his own body on the cross the sins we committed. He did this so that we might live in righteousness, having nothing to do with sin. By his wounds you were healed. Though you were like straying sheep, you have now returned to the shepherd and guardian of your lives.” — 1 Peter 2:24-25, CEB
There’s nothing like starting off strong after a good weekend of camping and recharging! We had a great time, but I am glad to be back in the land of beds and showers. While I was on the camping trip, doing my daily devotional reading, I happened upon this text, and I was struck by a revelation, if you will.
We talk about salvation a lot in the faith, and sometimes we mean just going to heaven post-death, other times we mean that our debt is settled with God and that our sins are forgiven. In the western part of the Church, we have a legalistic view of salvation. Our debt was paid. The cosmic checkbook was balanced in Jesus and now we avoid punishment, and there is definitely biblical language that tends toward that direction. However, there are also many Scriptures like the one above, which address the idea of salvation in a different way.
It is no secret that Christians believe that Jesus took the sin of the world on his shoulders on the cross, and normally we address this once a year, around Good Friday/Easter time. It’s considered depressing or heartbreaking, and therefore, is either used too often as a tool to inspire guilt (confused with repentance), or it is briefly discussed on our way to the happy ending! After all, I consider all the flack I get from other protestants who see that I wear a crucifix, rather than an empty cross.
“Jesus isn’t on there anymore! He is risen!”, they exclaim.
Well, as true as that may be, I can’t help but think we are too eager to look away from the grisly scene of the cross. This isn’t because I’m a morbid individual who wants everyone to feel guilty. That really isn’t my scene. However, I think this passage in 1 Peter presents us with a different way of approaching the foot of the cross that, yes, addresses our sin, but also helps us understand the blessedness that comes from living life having looked to the Savior that still (in some sense) hangs there.
The Scripture teaches that “He carried in his own body on the cross the sins we committed. He did this so that we might live in righteousness, having nothing to do with sin” (verse 24). To me, this has the flavor of the cross as instruction. If we look to the cross and realize that our sin was part of what put Jesus there, it should not just cause guilt. Rather, it should serve as instruction. Sin, our idolizing of ourselves as opposed to living a God-centered life, costs life. Sin is the power of death and distortion, causing pain by manipulating our vision so that we no longer see the image of God in ourselves or others. When sin is committed on and individual or communal level, the innocent suffer, just as the innocent Jesus suffers on the cross.
I once had a professor in seminary that said, “We crucify Christ by our isms.” He is right. Our racism, hatred, and other prejudices against those who are different or who we feel are inferior drive the nails deeper into the wrists and feet of Christ. They add stripe upon stripe to his beaten and pierced side. They twist the crown further down on his brow. Depressing? Feel guilty? Rock on. The gravity of our sin should always be understood. However, this is not where the story ends.
There is resurrection in Christ, and new life for us. In gazing upon the cross, understanding the gravity of our actions (or inaction), we should also be instructed. We should never want anything like what happened to Christ to happen to anyone else again, and we should start living our lives seeking to make every moment one in which we give life and light to others as opposed to taking it from them. When we make this choice, the choice to accept the reality of the cross and the resurrection, we have made the leap into salvation.
Salvation, then, is both a state and process that we enter into, and this is where the remaining Scripture from today’s post comes in. We are told that it is “By [Christ’s] wounds you were healed” (back half of verse 24). Salvation is more than being cleared or pardoned. It is being healed! Sin costs life, and that includes our own. It takes years of enjoyment and fullness off of our already brief lives, but in Christ, we are given that life back with the freedom to make different choices with a different focus in mind.
Verse 25 teaches us that “Though you were like straying sheep, you have now returned to the shepherd and guardian of your lives.” Salvation is coming home. It is running into the arms of our Father in heaven that have been open since the day we entered into this world. We strayed and wandered off, seeking after our own desires. When, however, we gaze upon the cross and accept the good news of the resurrection of Jesus, we are drawn back home to the place in which God is all we seek, evidenced by us seeking the best for ourselves and for all with whom we share this world.
As you go out into the rest of your evening and week, don’t go in guilt. Yes, our sin has cost life for us and for others. We are, however, offered salvation in Christ. This salvation is not merely “other-worldly” or a balanced check book. Rather, it is the healing and restoration of our very lives so that no matter where we are in life, we are right at home with the God who loves us, calls us, and seeks to make us more and more alive with each passing moment.
Peace be with you!