A friend recently asked how to explain the death and resurrection of Jesus to his young son in a non-judgmental, values-neutral way.  I have to admit, while a noble thought it’s very difficult.  Jesus himself said he came  ‘not to bring peace, but a sword,’  and that he would cause divisions even in households.  It’s tough to explain it without embracing the story or discounting it.

But since so much of faith requires metaphorical thinking, I have an idea.  Let’s think, first, about sin.  Modern society gets very upset about that word.  And probably, the church (temporal) has done a rotten job of explaining it.  Sin isn’t just cheating, lying, stealing, adultery, drunkenness, murder, blasphemy, etc.  Sin isn’t ‘making us guilty for fun.’

Sin is the reason we do all of those things.  Sin is the fundamental flaw in our spiritual physiology.  Sin is our brokenness.  Sin is, from an individual standpoint, the entropy we bear about; the mutation we have accumulated.

The  metaphor, like all metaphors, is inexact.  Mutations are random.  Sin, in some way difficult to understand, is a thing we are party to.  We have some complicity in it.  Now, before anyone says, ‘I didn’t do anything wrong!’ let’s ask, is anything wrong?  Is there evil in the world?

Most people don’t think they’re evil, but freely admit that someone else is.  I’m not bad, but the guy who cheats me on my car repairs is bad.  I’m not evil, but the fellow whose factory pollutes the environment, he’s evil.  My lust isn’t evil, but the guy that looks at my wife with leering eyes, he’s evil.  The poor are good, the rich are evil.  My politicians are good, the other guys are liars.

The point is, there’s a brokenness to humans, and indeed to the universe.  Death is here, but we rail against it.  Suffering is here and we question it.  If it were all good and right an normal, we wouldn’t be so stricken by our pain and loss.  If fractures were fine, we wouldn’t need morphine.  If heart attacks were totally cool, we wouldn’t have chest pain and others wouldn’t work to rescue the dying.

So, sin is, whatever you may call it.  Now, let’s think of it as a kind of cancer.  While thinking about my wife’s cancer, I thought, ‘if only we could put her into suspended animation a while and somehow let all of her cells briefly die, then resurrect the good ones!  Cancer cells having higher metabolic requirements, that might just help, right?  Of course, we can’t yet do that.

But what if we could do the same with the cancer that is sin?  Well, that’s the death of Jesus.  Who took the burden of every sin by taking sin, and it’s guilt, and its shame and it’s suffering, all onto himself.  It happened in a way difficult to comprehend; but then, quantum  mechanics are difficult to understand, as is star formation and the origin of DNA, but those are no less real.

When he died, the sin died with him.  But when he rose, the sin stayed dead.  Yes, we still have the side-effects of the disease. But it has lost its eternal power over us.  He died to take sin down and kill it.  Like a great, holy alligator death roll, he took it down and killed it…forever.

We still die.  We still suffer.  But to Christian believers, it won’t last forever.  The cause of the cosmic disease is dead.  That’s why believers say we are, ‘dead to sin, but alive in Christ.’  It’s why we say, ‘it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.’

In our theology, the risen Jesus takes up residence in us and makes us part of that healing; we are, in a similar metaphor, transfused with his blood so that we can ourselves, one day, be resurrected as well.

As I said, all metaphors are incomplete.  But this is how I have come to see the death and resurrection of Jesus, in light of our own cancer struggle; and it certainly fits all I know about human evil, human misery and human hope.

I hope that helps, friend!  Your wife is still in my prayers!


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