Savior of the World
Monday, April 15, 2019
Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. —1 Corinthians 15:57
How does Jesus the victim transform us? How does the lamb of God “take away” our sin (John 1:29), to use the common metaphor? How does Jesus “overcome death and darkness,” as we often say? Is it a heavenly transaction on God’s side, or is it more an agenda that God gives us for our side?
Did Jesus not reveal for all humanity the very pattern of redemption itself? Could that be what we mean by calling him “The Savior of the World” (John 4:42)? Jesus is, in effect, saying, “This is how evil is transformed into good. I am going to take the worst thing and turn it into the best thing, so you will never be victimized, destroyed, or helpless again! I am giving YOU the victory over death.”
Jesus takes away the sin of the world by dramatically exposing the real sin of the world (which is ignorant violence rather than not obeying purity codes); by refusing the usual pattern of revenge, and, in fact, “returning their curses with blessings” (Luke 6:27-28); and, finally, by teaching us that we can “follow him” in doing the same. There is no such thing as redemptive violence. Violence doesn’t save; it only destroys—in both short and long term. Jesus replaced the myth of redemptive violence with the truth of redemptive suffering. He showed us on the cross how to hold the pain and let it transform us, rather than pass it on to others around us.
Both the lie and the strategy have been revealed in one compelling action on God’s part. It is not that Jesus is working some magic in the sky that “saves the world from sin and death.” Jesus is reframing our past and our future in terms of grace. Jesus is not changing his Father’s mind about us; he is changing our mind about what is real and what is not.
Jesus on the cross identifies with the human problem, the sin, the darkness. He refuses to stand above or outside the human dilemma. Further, he refuses to be the scapegoater and instead becomes the scapegoat personified. In Paul’s language, “Christ redeemed us from the curse . . . by being cursed himself” (Galatians 3:13); or “God made the sinless one into sin, so that in him [together with him!] we might become the very goodness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). Wow! Just gaze upon that mystery.
Like most spiritual things, it cannot be understood with the dualistic or rational mind, but only at the level of soul. It is a transformational image and message that utterly rearranges one’s reality and idea of the very nature of God. Evil is not overcome by attack or even avoidance, but by union at a higher level. It is overcome not by fight or flight, but rather by “fusion.”
Adapted from Richard Rohr, Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality (Franciscan Media: 2008), 188-189.