Why do we keep punishing Jesus?

Jesus was hung on a cross for humanity’s sins. We know he was crucified because we have proof now, but the ‘why’ of this is up for interpretation. Christian folk have been taught that he was an innocent man tortured to save each of us, condemned for no reason but that he spoke out against the Roman dictatorship over the Jewish people, and the churches dictatorship over its own people. Oh yes, he broke a few tables along the way, but he never broke any ‘heads’, so he was calmer and quieter than some of the rabble who called themselves God’s representatives at the time. His message was one of love, peace and forgiveness – but that got lost along the way when the writer of Revelation turned him into the Vengeful Messiah the Jewish folk were craving .. sorry, the Christian folk were craving, after they converted.

Two thousand years later how much has changed? There are still people selling holy relics in the churches, only we call them music CDs and meditation tapes these days (or bits of the stone wall, imported direct from Mecca). Money still changes hands to buy redemption .. only now it’s called ‘give to the churches favourite charity’ (itself?). And our behaviour hasn’t improved, even after all this time, and all the sermons (or lectures) delivered from various pulpits. The Ten Commandments are still being ignored by most people, who go ahead and lust, steal and murder whenever it suits them. How many of them do you think care what God or Jesus will actually do to them after they die? Oh no, they’ve already turned their backs on that belief system .. and even if they haven’t .. the good Christians are murdering the commandments day by day.

I don’t really want to debate the commandments today, even though I think we should all put some serious consideration into re-inventing them. It’s not that they aren’t important, it’s that some of them don’t make sense anymore, given what Jesus taught us about God, and then there’s ‘honouring your parents’ which may end in you being abused by one, or both, of them. So let me get back to the point …

I was listening to Christian radio the other day, happily agreeing with what most of the speaker was saying, until something he said made me realise that we are constantly punishing Jesus. When we choose to sin we are deliberately denying everything he did for us by being hung up on that Cross. The teachings of the church, particularly when I was a child, was that each of us is born into sin .. the sins of our ‘fathers’ (does that make our mother’s relieved?) .. which actually means ‘the sins of our parents’. I have to ask why God would create beings that carried this sin for generation to generation (40 in all?) and how we escape it .. how about the 41st generation .. but no, the sin continues onto and into forever, and we can never be free of it, unless we accept Jesus as our Lord and Saviour .. (strange how we are lumbered with sin, but not allowed to benefit from the acceptance of our parent’s heartfelt connection back to God. When does the poison stop spreading through humanity’s veins .. and sin is a poison. It does make us ill). So I accept Jesus as my Lord and Saviour and therefore I am rescued from sin .. in that moment. Ten minutes later I go outside, covet someone’s car or bus or bike, or wife (heaven forbid because I’m female .. and my husband would object :-)) and I am back to being a sinner again.

So I turn myself around, go back into the church, and if it’s appropriate, confess this sin, say the Hail Mary’s or various other prayers we all use to ask for forgiveness and everything is all right again .. until I go outside and, walking home, ‘borrow’ a lemon from the fruit tree down the road (and the sin is not mitigated by making lemon cake and giving the owner half), without asking the owner first. Whoops, there goes sin number eight. Or worse, I tap the statue of Mother Mary on the knee on the way out the door and thank her for everything she’s helped me with (all those prayers) and there’s sin number two, because all thanks should be to God, or so I am taught. And what about if I have to work a shift or two on Sunday .. do I spent Monday on my knees begging forgiveness, not just for that one day, but because I am a repeat sinner. Is the punishment worse if we consciously sin over and over again?

Dear Jesus, who removed the sins of the world (John 1:29) .. turns out you only gave us the grace to turn around and break the rules again. And if you did remove ‘the sins of the world’ why is it that the Christians think you only did it for them?

There are times that I stand outside the Christian faith looking in and wonder what God will truly do to all those hypocrites, liars, cheats and thieves, and that’s just among the clergy. If they are not good enough Christians, and I am only a lay Theologian, what hope is there for me, if I follow their leadership? The church set themselves up as the role model for humanity .. and yet the law is now chasing various churches for not producing their paedophiles on demand, for covering up thousands of cases of abuse, and convincing the innocent that they would be publicly vilified if they tell anyone that a priest was their abuser. And where is Jesus in all this .. still hung up on the cross, because he really needs to stay there otherwise we have no hope at all.

For all the agony that he suffered for us in those three hours or so he was crucified, we have given him two and half million+ hours more through our own thoughts and actions. When do you think it will be enough, and he can come down off the cross and help us to be the people we can be, through his example .. loving, kind, generous, forgiving, tolerant, peaceful, thoughtful, God filled? Sometime soon I hope.

In a world full of fear and hatred being a God-filled person and trying to ‘lead by example’ can be incredibly difficult, but that is no excuse for not trying. Jesus was a human being just like you and me. He put his life on the line for us, as a living example of what we can achieve, with a little determination, a touch of temper and a strong desire to change the world. He started small. Look at the society God chose to drop him into, and the challenges of no ‘mass communication’, apart from anything else. Word of mouth was the best form of advertising then, and it still is. Leading by example still gathers hearts and souls together. Now we have the internet, and tv and movies, and what do we produce .. more programs to create horror and fear .. just look at the nightly news and their focus on disasters ..

But then, I am getting off the topic again ..

When Jesus saved us he knew we were sinners and that we needed a representative between us and God, and so he put himself there, human fears and all. Can we make ourselves a representative who stands up for what Jesus believes in, although society might ignore us or laugh and make fun? Can we ask him to come down off that cross for each of us now? You see, when Jesus was alive, there was no Christianity, there was only God. Jesus was not Christian, he was not exclusive, or inclusive, he wanted to talk to everyone about his Creator. The Christian church is closing its door on its own reality right now, because it is run by sinners seeking Revelationianic outcomes, rather than the truly loving ones that Jesus taught us about. Because .. when you think about it for a moment .. you will realise that, if Vengeful Messiah ‘came’ now, heaven would be very empty, and most of us would be in hell, suffering with the demons. Where would you be?

Love & Peace
Ama

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Vengeance is Mine!

Let me set the scene: a discussion on another site, with a person (A) who says that the Bible says s/he is justified to seek vengeance against another person (B), by cursing them .. literally using a spell. This person (B) had done the victim (A), and others s/he says, harm, and the curse had changed them (B) into a better, now God fearing, person. What do I believe? When I asked the caster (A) to remove the curse and forgive the person (B), s/he refused .. s/he said it had been God’s will that s/he had done it, and it would be God’s will when the curse came off, if it ever did. I suggested s/he removed it to see if it had been the curse that had forced the person (B) to change, or had the person simply chosen the happier path themselves? S/he (A) also refused to do this. S/he is still angry at the person for what they did to her/him. By her/his own admission s/he is unforgiving.

It got me thinking about the bible, and as usual, comparing the OT with the NT .. and so I dipped into both, via Strong’s Concordance .. and was flabbergasted at the amount of times the word revenge, avenge or vengeance was used by Strong’s, only to find them retranslated, occasionally, in my NOAB into retribution, or switched between avenged and revenged, or verses where it was removed completely and taken back to a better translation. What it showed to me was the mindset of the person who first did the translation of the Bible from the Hebrew and Greek that Strong bases his Concordance upon – Vengeance is mine! or is it? How do we justify vengeance when Jesus words ask us to choose another path?

Dictionary meanings –

Vengeance – Infliction of punishment in return for a wrong committed; retribution.
Idiom: with a vengeance
1. With great violence or force.
2. To an extreme degree.

Revenge – tr.v. re•venged, re•veng•ing, re•veng•es
1. To inflict punishment in return for (injury or insult).
2. To seek or take vengeance for (oneself or another person); avenge.
n.
1. The act of taking vengeance for injuries or wrongs; retaliation.
2. Something done in vengeance; a retaliatory measure.
3. A desire for revenge; spite or vindictiveness.
4. An opportunity to retaliate, as by a return sports match after a defeat.

Avenge – tr.v. a•venged, a•veng•ing, a•veng•es
1. To inflict a punishment or penalty in return for; revenge: avenge a murder.
2. To take vengeance on behalf of: avenged their wronged parents.

There is a lot of vengeance (revenge/avenging) going on in the OT, and lots of folk asking God for it, and joyfully naming God ‘vengeful’, and glorying in what God might do to their enemies. Isaiah said there is even a Day of Vengeance (34:8, 61:2, 63:04) (later Luke calls it ‘days’ 21:22 – wasn’t one enough?) Jeremiah calls it a Day of Retribution (46:10), but the meaning is the same. A day when harming others will not anger God? Oh yes, doesn’t Psalms advise us that “the righteous will rejoice when they see vengeance done; they will bathe their feet in the blood of the wicked ..”? But who decides who is wicked?

I guess if we all play ‘follow the leader’ seeking revenge/vengeance is not so surprising, given that Jehovah either did it, or threatened to, on a regular basis. Or, as one lady I know said, this is how the writers wanted believers to see Jehovah, as defending them when they were in strife, but .. what happened when they broke the rules .. the jealous God (Psalm 94:1, Proverbs 6:34) of Vengeance suddenly turned the tables and attacked them … look at Saul and his torment by an ‘evil angel from the Lord’ because he spared the life of one man. Was Moses being banned from the promised Land God’s revenge for disobedience, and then there is Jephthah having to sacrifice his daughter because of his promise to Jehovah, even though Abraham’s hand was stopped when he went to do the same to his son? Even Revelation demands it .. written after Jesus’ teachings – what was ‘John’ thinking? “Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long will it be before you judge and avenge our blood on the inhabitants of the earth”? This is the Jesus that taught ‘turn the other cheek’ and ‘love one another’, it’s a puzzle that John ignored him.

But there was a quiet, very quiet, voice of reason within the OT. Leviticus 19:17 “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbour as yourself ..”. And questions can be raised by Psalm 99:8 .. how a forgiving God can be an ‘avenger of their wrongdoings’? A person who forgives has no reason to seek vengeance; surely a God who forgives would be even less inclined to do so? After all, ‘he’ laid down the rules.

Jesus went up the mountain to speak to the people, to give them a new way of living, a new way of thinking about how they acted in their lives. He called us ‘the Light of the World’ (Matthew 5:14). He said our light should shine for others (5:16), but how can it when our hearts are filled with pain and darkness? 1 Sam 14:24 called casting a curse a ‘rash act’, and it is, for none of us can know the repercussions of our actions. Oh, we might see an immediate effect, and pat ourselves on the back for it, but what about the long term, and what about if we choose to continue to hate instead of loving, to glory in another’s pain, what then?

Jesus taught ‘if you are angry you are liable to judgment’ (Matt 5:22) and he disputed the old teachings of ‘an eye for an eye’ (Matt 5:38), which is what so many use as their excuse to do harm to others – ‘they did it first’ or ‘they hurt someone else’. He said “… do not resist an evil doer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also …” (Matt 5:39), and keeping turning, and walk away. He placed God’s love, and our place in heaven, far above any earthly concerns. He also said ‘be perfect … as your heavenly Father is perfect’ (Matt 5:48).

Ok, now I go back to shaking my head in puzzlement. The God of Vengeance is perfect, but we are not allowed to act like him? Which God was Jesus talking about? Oh I know, the one he called out to from the Cross .. EL, not Jehovah.

Jesus taught ‘forgive and keep forgiving’ (Matt 18:22). He did not teach ‘punish first, and then stay angry’. Paul continued the theme with a few add-ins .. Romans 12:19-21 “Beloved, never avenge yourself, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord. No, if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

In my opinion Paul needed to work on his ‘forgiving’ attitude, but I do understand what he meant. When you do good to others who would harm you, you can make them very angry. They want you to react from the same pain they are feeling; when you don’t, when you ‘love’ instead of hating .. you show them themselves in a very ugly mirror. If you will hold Love in your heart, instead of pain and fear, you become the Light Jesus wants us all to be, which he says we already are.

The bible is confusing people .. again. Who do we choose to follow when the OT teaches of a vengeful God, and the NT says “don’t be vengeful”, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Luke 6:31), “Love one another as I have loved you” (Luke 13:34), “turn the other cheek”? I suppose it depends on our mood at time .. given that the Bible isn’t consistent as well? But I would rather follow Jesus .. consistently. So Vengeance isn’t mine, and nor do I think it is Jesus’ God’s first thought either. How could ‘He’ have said “love one another as I have loved you” if he was planning on judging us all in the near future (his version anyway) and sending most of us to hell?

But that’s another story.

Love & Peace
Ama