Friday, April 14, 2006

Dying for Our Sins

As the story goes, today is the day that Christ died for our sins. What does that mean exactly? Being raised in a predominately Christian society I was lead to see it as we, as humans, are really, really broken and unworthy and a bunch of ego crushing stuff like that, and that Christ came along and sort of took our sins, bundled them all up, put them on his back and did the Noble Thing, and was the lamb to the slaughter, saying I will die a horrendous death and that will clean everyone of these inherent sins they carry. Sort of like: I will clean your slate and you will owe me, and that debt must be repay with an undying love and commitment to me and my way of life forever and ever (ahem).

Wow, that is just too much for me. Too much owning someone, too much obligation, too much not responsible for myself, too much absolution. In general, I am quite fond of Christ, even though I have not taken him as my saviour (even writing that expression freaks me out a bit, firstly, it assumes I need saving, secondly, it assume I am not up for the job myself, thirdly, it implies someone else can do that for me, quite presumptuous). He is an inspiration of how to live life with love, courage, compassion and grace. I have always held him as a brother, who has walked that path before me and can light the way and help me over rough patches. This fits with my perspective that I am a child of God too, so Christ’s special status as the Son of God, loses some of its mystique and authority. But even so, I have tons of respect and love for this powerful, caring, righteous man.

But back to this dying for our sins deal. Here is the way I see it that works for me. He was role modeling something we all can do. He didn’t do it for us, he did it for us. If you see what I mean. He was marking the path, establishing the route, leading the way. And he did what can be and usually is an inner journey, in an outer, visible, active way. So that we could all learn from it, and be less afraid of our own hard, dark moments. We all have the option to do what he did (not the hanging on a cross part, that is harder to get happening these days then back then), but the principles that he embodied.

To take responsibility for things that are happening even if we are not 100% to blame, or even to “blame”. Really, isn’t this what all the business guru are writing about these days, not to mention how long the 12 steppers have been living it: see your part in it and cop to it, don’t try to hide it or deny it or push it under the rug and blame someone else. It’s about personal responsibility. Which is different from being a martyr, or a victim, and sucking it up and taking responsibility for other people’s stuff. Fine line I know. Learning to walk it is the point. As is not hanging out in blame. This applies to cancer (and I am sure other diseases), what part of my health is my responsibility? How many choices do I decide (or not decide) to abdicate? Who or what do I blame? What am I willing to do to change the situation?

To go willingly. Not to say there wasn’t a time when he resisted, remember the garden. And thank goodness for that, it helps me a great deal, as just an ordinary person (as I am sure Christ felt himself to be as well), to know that the Great Jesus Christ had at least one dark night of the soul, a moment when he felt abandoned by God, and felt himself fumbling around in the dark, wondering, waiting, desperate, apathetic, struggling, resisting, and all the other fun bits that come along with it. Just like me, he had fears. Which is something that I need to know when I am faced with the painful road that I don’t want to journey. To know that it is ok: I can question God’s will, I can say I don’t like it, and stamp my feet and have a tantrum. And eventually I, like Christ, will make peace with my journey, and from there can willingly and powerfully step to the inevitable. I love the lines from Jesus Christ Super Star in the garden, when everyone is asleep and Christ is talking to God, and he says, “God, thy will is hard. But you hold every card. I will drink your cup of poison, nail me to your cross and break me, bleed me, beat me, kill me! Take me now, before I change my mind!”

To not take people’s projections of their fears personally. Boy it must have been hard to going from walking on water, and being the life of the party to being heckled, and mocked and attacked and demeaned. But don’t we all fall from grace one day or other, in some way or other? None of us are perfect (not even The Great One, in this case JC, not Wayne Gretsky, although that is relatively topical too). And all of us will be the recipients of people’s projections at some time or other too. Whether they think we are too big for our britches, too arrogant, not fighting for our fair share, not standing up to people. Whatever it is that people say about us, we all know it says more about the person who says it rather than the person it is said about. Still, boy it is hard not to take it on, not to take it personally. And Christ did that. He forgave them, right there and then, for all the crap they were dishing out to him. Even in his darkest hour, his biggest pain. Then again, knowing what I know about Dark Nights of the Soul, the days that followed the night in Gethsemane were not Christ’s darkest hour, by then he was already feeling God’s Love, and there is no human force that can lessen the beauty and magic when we are in that place. When we are in total acceptance, of ourselves, our situation and our relationship with our higher power, then equanimity and forgiveness is easy, almost unconscious.

These are all marks of the ever so important ego death that is necessary for our growth as human beings. That place where we let a part of ourselves, that we identify with strongly, go. We realize that it is not our true nature, not our deepest core being, but rather a veil we put on, a mask we wear, perhaps our Proper Self that keeps everyone else happy, and so, painful as it is to let go of that chunk of our identity, we do so. For our own evolution. And in the case of our brother, JC, for the evolution of all humankind, whether he knew it or not.

So thank you Mr. Christ, for living out loud, and letting us be witness, and so granting us permission for our own journeys.


At 1:05 AM PDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Signy,

Great blog -- I'm often scared I won't be able to articulate how the stories of old relate to modern times but you've done it so well here! And, those are my favourite lines from Jesus Christ Superstar too -- often I will find myself singing those exact lines to myself (plus the two that precede it "... what I started; what you started, I didn't start it."

Something of interest -- word on the street in some United Churches these days (and modern academics) is that we can let go of the notion Jesus died for our sins (how was he to know at that point). Looking at the story from within its time, we see he was a menace that was getting out of hand and needed to be dealt with. So, he was "taken care of." Period.

My favourite story from the NT is when Jesus sees this olive tree not bearing any fruit so he yells at it and it shrivels up and dies never to produce fruit again(and it wasn't even the time of year for olives anyway). I like it because the guy must have been totally frustrated with everyone and everything and just lashed out at this innocent bystander of a tree. Gives me hope!

Have you ever heard the story about how one snowflake broke an entire branch? It started to snow and the flakes fell. They started to pile up on the ground and on the branch of this tree. They kept piling up on the branch. They started to get pretty heavy and the branch started to buckle. Just when the branch couldn't take any more weight another snowflake fell and broke the branch. So, it only took one snowflake to break the branch. The story was used in reference to peace -- it will only take one more voice for peace to come. (Something in your blog made me think of this story and now I've promptly forgotten).

Okay, the end.

At 7:58 AM PDT, Blogger Alda said...

Bravo! Excellent post.

Like you, I've never quite got my head around this concept of Jesus dying for our sins. I've never spoken to anyone else, either, who could adequately explain it., much as they claim to believe it. Although I am aware that Christianity is based on faith and not logic...

Like you, however, I have a vast amount of love and respect for him as a human being. I don't know if he was the Son of God, but I do know that he was a pretty amazing individual, one that everyone would do well to take as a role model.

Interestingly, I listened to all of Jesus Christ Superstar yesterday. What I appreciate most about it is how it draws forth the politics of that time and, like Julie said, that Jesus was a threat that had to be eliminated. It is good vs. evil, hunger for power vs. humility and kindness. The story of Jesus is still very much relevant today because those issues do not change. In fact, to me so many of the stories in the Bible - both old and new testament - should be viewed as symbolic. That way they gain so much more relevance to today.

At 11:16 PM PDT, Blogger Signy said...

Yes, there is some good stuff in the Good Book. And taking it with a grain of salt seems a useful way to season it.

I know such a limited number of bible stories, but even so Christ stands out (guess that goes without saying). And there is a way where we have made so much of the man that he can start to lose his humanity. And isn't his humanity half the point.

It is not quite the same as present day headline paper sellers, but I can't imagine what it must have been like to have ones life stripped of its privacy and made meaning from. There is so much intepretation of so many aspects. What if he was just human? What if he was just trying his best? What if at the end of the day he regretted some choices and wanted a do-over? What if he is just like us? Or maybe because he is just like us.

Makes you stop and think, hey?

At 6:39 AM PDT, Blogger Mother of Invention said...

I, too, definitely believe that JC was indeed a Messenger of God and sent to show us how to live with a Spiritually Kind Attitude towards others. Maybe all those Bible stories are not to be taken so literally and in such detail....maybe they are simply excellent stories of their time, to be seen as parables. Other Messengers, like the Dalai Lama, exemplify this as well....That man is a sweetheart and I love his laugh! He just exudes goodness.

Sounds like you have made your peace and are strong in your acceptance of whatever journey is in store for you, while not losing your REAL SELF in the process. A very good place to be; a No Lose situation!


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