Thursday, April 28, 2011

Are "Beliefs" The New Bloody Goats?

In keeping with the Easter spirit, for we still have forty something more days of Easter, I want to touch on something that arose out of a conversation that was had at the last cohort gathering.

As we discussed what it was exactly that Jesus did on the cross, the text from Hebrews kept coming up about Jesus being the final sacrifice "once and for all."

It's amazing to me how much we do not seem to believe that. That it's done. It's been taken care of. Instead we seem to think there is still something for us to offer, to do, or to think.

That Jesus' death served as a sacrifice is probably one of the more popular metaphors we have taken to, in fact, many think that it's the only way of speaking about what Christ did on the cross.

This way of speaking about the cross was very revolutionary in a day where animal sacrifices were required for the forgiveness of sins. For centuries, and throughout many cultures, sacrifices were the way to appease the god(s).

So for someone to write down that those sacrifices, as well as a system that had been ingrained in so many, were no longer necessary was an ideology that would not have been so easily accepted by all who heard it. For some, something still had to be done, something had to be given in order to appease God and bring about forgiveness of sin.

For many, the sacrificial system had been a way of life, which is why this way of describing the cross would have resonated with so many in the 1st few centuries.

But do we really believe that the sacrificial system is over and done with, or are we still trying to appease the wrath God or please her that we might find favor and blessing?

No, most of us do not bring animals to be slaughtered on our behalf, but is there a deep sense that something still needs to be offered or else, God will not be satisfied?

What are those things that we still make sacrifices and offerings?

Is it church attendance? If you aren't there every time the doors are opened then somehow your relationship with God is broken.

Is it a daily devotional? I remember feeling this way growing up.... That if I missed a day of reading my bible and praying (a quiet time or if you're a youth pastor a "QT/devo") that God was angry with me and I couldn't dare go to him until it was made right somehow.

Is it our beliefs? I find this one fascinating. Do we feel we have to believe certain things in order to appease God? The problem with the idea of sacrifices in the ancient world was that it was never enough. This is why people would end up sacrificing their first born children, because 10% of their crop just wasn't cutting it anymore.

I see this same things happening with doctrines and beliefs. It starts out as a simple belief in Jesus, then comes the necessity of the trinity, the virgin birth, hell, miracles, etc, or else you can't really be "saved". I have heard many people, including pastors, claim that they don't think one can be saved without believing in things such as the virgin birth, the trinity, or penal substitutionary atonement as well as inerrancy of scripture.

So are beliefs or certain traditions the new bulls and goats? Are we constantly having to slit the throats of these metaphorical bulls and goats in order to earn our way to God?

And does this sometimes lead to a superficial belief? We end up believing (what we subconsciously think to be) ridiculous things because we have been told that they are necessary.

Your thoughts?

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