by John Goodchild
from Signs of the Times No. 54 - Jul 2014
Liberals have good news to share about Christ’s death and should do so with passion.
In creating a world where people could become morally responsible human beings, God had to give us free will which meant we could harm each other.. He also had to make a world with a regular pattern of cause and effect and an element of chance. This has meant much innocent suffering. Good people have their lives wrecked by others, suffer grievous misfortune or are struck down by cruel diseases. God has a lot to answer for. Although we may not admit it there is a lot of anger and bitterness in our world which may be directed at God. We are suspicious and wary of him if we do not openly condemn him.
Our situation is well expressed in a song by Sydney Carter. One of the convicts executed with Christ is speaking:
It was on a Friday morning that they took me from my cell
and I saw they had a carpenter to crucify as well.
You can blame it on to Pilate, you can blame it on the Jews.
You can blame it on the devil - but it’s God that I accuse.
It’s God they ought to crucify instead of you and me,
I said to the carpenter, a-hanging on the tree.
You can blame it onto Adam, you can blame it on to Eve.
You can blame it on the apple - but that I can’t believe.
It was God that made the devil, and the woman, and the man
and there wouldn’t be an apple if it wasn’t in the plan.
It’s God they ought to crucify…
Now Barabbas was a killer and they let Barabbas go,
but you are being crucified for nothing that I know.
And your God is up in heaven and he doesn’t do a thing
with a million angels watching and they never move a wing.
‘It’s God they ought to crucify…
‘To hell with Jehovah’, to the carpenter I said,
‘I wish that a carpenter had made the world instead’.
Only a suffering God can begin to heal our world. As Edward Shillito wrote:
‘The other gods were strong, but thou wast weak,
they rode, but thou didst stumble to a throne.
But to our wounds God’s wounds alone can speak,
and not a god has wounds but Thou alone’.
Geoffrey Ainger wrote:
Born in the night, Mary’s child,
you tell us God is good.
Prove it is true, Mary’s child,
go to your cross of wood’.
Why did Jesus die? Not so that God could forgive and embrace us, but so that we could forgive and embrace God. God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself (2 Cor 5:18-19).
Canon Bill Vanstone writes:
‘Drained is love in making full,
bound in setting others free,
poor in making many rich,
weak in giving power to be.
Therefore he who shows us God,
helpless hangs upon the tree,
and the nails and crown of thorns
tell of what God’s love must be.
Here is God, no monarch he,
throned in easy state to reign,
here is God, whose arms of love,
aching, spent, the world sustain’.
The world needs a God who makes himself vulnerable, who comes to share our suffering. Only that makes it possible to trust God unreservedly and to love him wholeheartedly. This alone provides the motive power for overcoming the evils of our world with good. The nails driven into Christ’s hands go straight into the heart of God. Through the cross anger and bitterness can be absorbed and new relationships made possible.