Continuing a series of several posts this week on the Atonement… In a Living Church Reader’s View article, Betty Streett, a Mississippi laywoman writes about the power in Christ’s blood.
The image of Christ’s blood has surrounded me lately. My daughter gave me a Charlie Daniels’ gospel music CD. Throughout it are images of blood: “What can wash away my sins? Nothing but the blood of Jesus,” and “There’s power in the blood, power in the blood.”
Not long ago, I attended a Southern Baptist church and sang such songs, reminding me of my childhood at church in the Tennessee hills. Many Christians, and I must include myself in this, find the words describing salvation through Jesus’ blood old-fashioned, unsophisticated, a little embarrassing, even somewhat offensive. There are at least two reasons for this.
In the first place, we don’t accept the concept of sin, so we find the concept of redemption unnecessary. We see the sacrifice of animals in the Old Testament as a quaint practice, acts done by primitive people, and we really don’t know why God seemed to have required it. We don’t want to consider anything or anyone paying for our transgressions because we don’t think we have any ”” at least not any that are serious. We are, for the most part, kind and generous, honest and faithful. We are for the most part pretty nice people. What more could anyone want? We certainly don’t want or need any blood atonement, any sacrificial death.
In the second place, the human soul can’t conceive of God stepping into history, into creation, and allowing himself to be tortured and killed, to bleed and die. The whole concept of a true, real God is that of power. And no being with power would assume a position of powerlessness to be abused and beaten, tortured and killed.
A suffering, bleeding Christ defies what we think power is and what it’s for. Political power, military power, corporate power, even personal power is all about getting its own way, by force if necessary. Power doesn’t suffer. Power causes suffering whenever and wherever it’s seriously questioned. Power doesn’t bleed. It draws blood if it’s severely challenged. What else could power be for? What good would it be if not to shape the unwilling into willingness?
The idea of the suffering, bleeding God being offensive is not new. It is not a 21st-century invention. Jesus himself saw it clearly. He said he was a stumbling block, an offense. He saw that people would be ashamed of his blood, offended by his death on a cross, and would misunderstand both sin and power.