Good? Huh?

Once I understood what Good Friday meant, I asked my mom why we called this Friday "good." Not just good but Good. She used to give me the "Jesus died for our sins today" Sunday-School-answer. "But not my sins," I would insist. I really thought time or space had something to do with it. Well, this is what I tried to project that I thought. Secretly, I knew that all of the bad things I did in a year, alright let's be honest--in a day--willfully, things that I didn't ask forgiveness for, surely must have disqualified me from the sort of redemption that a one-time Cross deal could take care of. I had it drummed into my head, both explicitly by my school teachers at GBCMS and Maranatha and implicitly by my psudeo-Catholic plus f'ed up alcoholic family, that there was some sort of hierarchy both to sin itself and to the sinner. In other words, if a really bad person committed a relatively minor infraction, it was still counted heavily against them. So you didn't want to "backslide", lest in your sinning ways you gave yourself over to sin in such a way that you couldn't pull out of it even if you wanted to, making speeding equal to swearing, having long hair equal to burglary. In the discussion about a relative thermometer to sins, we shouldn't overstate the case. There is a glass we are looking through, sure; but it is somewhat cloudy. And the particular sins we find most loathsome and wish for instantaneous condemnation of could turn out to be completely influenced by the changing (though not entirely subjective) attitudes of our particular time period, geographic location, and faith community. For instance, some might state that--given the passage in 1 Corinthians--length of hair and hair coverings, clothing styles, even our non-alterable attributes of gender, to a large degree, affect our relationships with God. Therefore a male with hair longer than chin length is terminally rebellious or is more in danger of committing worse sins than a man with a military style haircut, for instance. The point I am trying to make is that our sin and righteousness hierarchy is, in most cases it seems, based on sociology rather than theology. (Maybe you could make that point about the field of theology itself, but I am not making that my point. And before this point is taken too far, let me come right out to say that I am not condoning pedophilia or even saying that it is "equal" with stealing or speeding or chewing gum on the Sabbath. Scripture seems fairly clear on that issue.) What I am saying is that the "Good" in Good Friday is predicated upon the goodness of the Act being Good-er and more substantial than all other acts ever done. Maybe the Crucifixion is the only Real Act the world has witnessed because it was the first choice made by One who can alone make choices of that magnitude. But maybe that's trumping the homo- portion of the homoousion [no "homo" jokes, por favor] to the exclusion of the "fully man" part. Like usual, my ruminations are tangled and give way to this quote, which is much clearer: "When you reflect upon Jesus Christ hanging on the cross of shame, you understand the depth and weight of human sin. How do we measure the size of a fire? By the number of firefighters and fire engines sent to fight against it. How do we measure the seriousness of a medical condition? By the amount of risk the doctors take in prescribing dangerous antibiotics or surgical procedures. How do we measure the gravity of sin and the incomparable vastness of God's love for us? By looking at the magnitude of what God has done for us in Jesus, who became like a common criminal for our sake and in our place. "When you really come to know the unconditional love and forgiveness of Jesus, then you will also come to know the depth of your own participation in sin. And at the very same moment (this is the glory of Good Friday) you will come to know the true reality, the true joy and gladness, of the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ our Lord." --Fleming Rutledge, "The Common Criminal," from The Undoing of Death, 2002. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, MI.


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