Today is Good Friday, the anniversary of the crucifixion of Jesus. For Jews this was a time fraught with danger. As Christians poured into their churches to hear how the Jews murdered their God, they often poured out of their churches to murder Jews. This is less likely to happen today, though I had a fascinating conversation with a Catholic priest the other day who suggested the times they are a changin’.
It seems the Church is changing the phrase “Christ died for all” to “Christ died for many.” In other words He died only for those who believe in Him, everyone else is damned. The Jews being the consummate outsiders are not included in Christ’s salvific act of sacrifice, and this may, my friend said, lead to renewed anti-Semitism.
While I don’t expect my Catholic neighbors to engage in pogroms anytime soon, he does raise an interesting point: for whom did Christ die?
I don’t believe in substitutionary atonement: no one can pay for another’s sin. I believe in the Gospel According to Pottery Barn: you break it; you buy it. So let me suggest a radically new understanding of Good Friday: God didn’t die for our sins, God died for God’s sins.
God finally realized that He was responsible for the sins of the world. It was His rejection of Cain that led to the killing of Abel. It was He who murdered almost all life in the Flood. It was He who sanctioned genocide after genocide, and called for the slaughter of hundreds of millions of animals. After centuries of this madness, He was, as the Hebrew prophets revealed, sick of it. He just wanted people to be good to one another. But what could He do to make amends and get this message across?
God chose to become one of us to teach us the new Way: the way of love. No temples, no priests, no rabbis, just people loving one another. And then, to make amends for all the killing He had caused, He allowed Himself to be killed as well.
God died for His sins, not ours. And having died for His sins, God can no longer be used as an excuse for our sins. God changed when He died at the Cross. Unfortunately we did not. We kept to the old ways, the ways of worshipping gods who commend and command what would otherwise be thought of as evil. We made of God’s atoning cross a sword with which to continue the bloodstained madness of the now dead god.
So Good Friday must be reinterpreted. Good Friday is the day that God died for His sins that you and I might stop killing in His Name. Good Friday should be the day we stop fostering hate and hurt and murderous acts in His Name. It should be, but I doubt it will be.