Sunday, April 1, 2012
God’s Dilemma: A Contemplation on Easter
Easter Day is one more time approaching this year. If you ask me about Easter, then I will simply say that, to me, it is the most precious time, among others, to contemplate upon God’s love. Quoting Karl Barth, who once said that the grace of God is the uniqueness of Christianity, I would like to offer this way of thought to you. What I mean by grace here refers to the flesh-and-blood demonstration of God’s love on the two crisscrossing bars, i.e. Jesus Christ died on the cross. Usually every religion offers good deeds and rewards, or sins and punishments. However, the case of Jesus Christ is totally unique. Not many people know and are aware of this thing as the culmination and perfection of that holy love is concealed from human’s sinful thought. So, why is it unique and worth thinking about? What is it all about after all?
If you think that Christmas is the season of peace and joy, because the baby Jesus born in the manger is celebrated on Christmas day every year, you are completely not wrong. But if you think, as the whole world think and do, that Christmas is the greatest celebration over all, you have just had hit the post and not shot on the goal. It is because you have missed the other super significant moment of the proof of God’s divine love – that would surely be Easter.
Let us think of a person who had just become a father, as his son was just born. This man would certainly be very happy to have a baby, together with his wife. Unfortunately, the mother died soon after giving birth to the baby and the father has to take care of him alone. The baby boy then grew up, supervised by his parent, healthily. Nothing was wrong until one day that son got a very bad brain-related accident that made him retarded for the rest of his life. Nevertheless, the father had ever promised to himself that he was going to love and take the best care of his son despite of anything happened. Then, he quitted his job and took care of his son with the rest of his wealth. He tried to interact with his feeble-minded son with pure love and affection. However, his father always had a great difficulty to communicate with him. Every time he spoke to his son, he would just smile or laugh out loud, without even a bit of consciousness and understanding to what his father meant. Do you think it is a poignant scene?
Let us also think of a great king who had just been inaugurated before his beloved people. This king promised to protect his kingdom and people to the best of his knowledge and power. Years had passed and his kingdom developed flourishingly and prosperously. One day, an evil and gigantic mythical-type creature came to the kingdom and it destroyed almost everything. It also abducted many people as he brought a very humongous cart travelling with it. It then pompously mocked the king and his troops as it went out of the kingdom. The king was greatly troubled because he wanted to save his people, as he had promised, but he could not leave his kingdom unattended. In this very critical situation, the king’s son offered himself to go and look for the giant. The king was terribly sad as he loved his soon so much. However, being consistent to his own promise, he could not fail to concede his only son to set his people free. What do you think about this story?
If we talk about God, you must agree with me if I say that God is full of love and justice. He is affectionate and just in everything he does. He should also be consistent and adherent to His own principles. This means we are not to compare this type of God with the Gods and Goddesses from the ancient mythologies, e.g. of Egyptian, Greek, Roman, etc. Those Gods and Goddesses are as unstable and unfaithful like ordinary human beings. They can get angry and fight with each other easily and cause so much destruction to human realm. This is, of course, not the type of God I refer to.
God created men and they went against God, i.e. Adam and Eve story. Whether you believe in that story or not, we feel, for sure, the effect of that. Since the ancient time up until the modern time, i.e. our time now, religions have been struggling to bring humans to reach ultimate goodness for the sake of the life after life. Can it be realized anyways? Even when we do good things, we have to admit that our sinful hearts may look at others with full of hatred and jealousy. That God, of course, feels that He needs to do something to remedy this. The whole scenario must have been in His thought. His foreknowledge must have covered all knowledge from eternity to eternity as it goes beyond the limitation of space and time – as He is God, He must know everything. Being consistent, just, and loving, God should always adhere to His own principles, even as He had already known that men would sin against Him.
Thus, in His great dilemma, He never withdrew Himself from creating the universe although He knows, since the very beginning, that the humans He created would go against Him. He, in fact, set up a plan for salvation since the very beginning – if eternity had a beginning point. This sounds like a complete setting that takes care of everything perfectly. Well, you might say that this is completely a Christian story, but could you refuse to accept the notions of God that I offer here? Do you have any better type of God in mind?
Well, if you say you do not believe in God, that would be another step back and we need another bunch of sentences to discuss about that. I would simply use the argument of Aquinas, i.e. Natural Theology, in a slightly different way. If you see a complex structure, e.g. machine, you will argue that you infer an intelligent being behind the creation of that structure. That kind of structure could not, definitely, exist by itself, could it? So how about this huge structure of universe that contains the details in every abstraction layer, from unfathomably super-large scale of this universe to the very high complexity of biological cells at a very tiny scale. Are you convinced then? J Hopefully, yes!
Yet, we humans, created by God as His image, have our own wills and affections. In being persons, like God Himself who is a person, we have our own thoughts and aspirations that we want to realize and God takes this factor into account. In His plan, He knows that He should respect you and me as persons and not as things. He takes our thoughts, ideas, and even complaints.
In the stories of the father with his feeble-minded son and the king with his abducted people, the two characters actually refer to God who is loving and consistent to his love. He is also like the king, who finally relinquished his only son as he was being consistent to his love and promise towards his people. God even surpasses those great fellows. Being completely faithful to his characters and principles, the sins committed by humans could not be eradicated without any sacrifice; everything done should result in some consequences.
The principle that God has set is that there should be bloodshed with every covenant, i.e. began in Jewish tradition. Humans have breached the first covenant with God when Adam and Eve sinned, so the second covenant was created to mend this situation. Being a God that does not want to exterminate His own creations, like a small kid that is bored with his toys, and, yet, taking everyone, i.e. his created humans as a person, He then came out with a plan to prepare a way for His only Son to come and complete the task. The long preparation of the coming of Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, through the history of God’s chosen, yet rebellious, people indicates how God does not want to disturb the world He created with dignity. Yet, he loves that world and He had to fulfill His justice. God’s holy wrath has to be quenched, but not being human sadist, and a new covenant has to be made for His beloved people. All of these factors met in one person, the only one qualified, Jesus Christ.
The uniqueness of Jesus’ salvation lies in this point. His dying on the cross shows how punishment has been given to him for our sins as he was completely in human form, i.e. incarnation. However, being the Son of God, i.e. in essence God himself, He is qualified to fulfill the commandments of God because He is sinless and flawless. He simply fulfilled the original purpose of human creation – glorifying God in this life. Remember, the bloodshed on the cross symbolizes the new covenant God sets for humans who believe in this salvation of Jesus. But, the price was the humiliation of God Himself. He entered human realm, releasing His deity, became one of us, but less people knew that He is God. He just had the dilemma, because He did not want to disturb this world too much. That is why He opted to offer you and me His love. He just hopes that you and me will receive this offer – you and I are persons with full dignity in His eyes.
Jesus’ salvation was accomplished on the cross. It becomes the expression of God’s characters, love, justice, consistency, and respect towards humanity. If there was ever greater love story composed by any man, it would never exceed the greatness of this love story of God. It is pure and great in itself. Napoleon, once, ever said that Jesus Christ’s story is different from the story of the great Caesars, i.e. Alexander, Julius Caesar, Charlemagne, Napoleon, etc. who conquered people through fears and terrors. His story is a story about love and mercy. In his conquest, He offers His pure love to conquer you and me. It is simply up to us, whether we want to accept Him and love Him back or reject Him despisingly. This is the story of Easter, and, now, it is up to you and me to accept or reject this love. But, who cannot be moved and touched by this great love? Should be none, including you and me!