“And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. ”
Historically, and still today, sacrificial systems have been used to deal with human evil. Something has to be sacrificed, blood has to be shed, someone has to be blamed, someone needs to pay the price. I think it’s fair to say that we’re (humanity) not quite sure yet how to deal with the problem of evil without sacrifice. Debt. Blood. Payment. Revenge. Atonement. Something needs to make up for the evil.
Ancient cultures, and some not-so ancient cultures, sacrificed humans, spilled their blood to atone not just for personal sins and wrongs, but for apparent collective sins, too. Somewhere along the way, we progressed to animal sacrifice instead (mostly) of human. Well done, humanity! That was a step in the right direction. Sacred and specially chosen animals “took the place” of sinners/wrongdoers/evil (everyone), and pay the blood debt on our behalf. This happened in many different cultures and religions, not just the origin of ours. Animals were our scapegoats.
And that did the trick for a time. Kind of…
See, sacrificing an animal is very different to sacrificing yourself. And, I don’t mean in the bloodletting kind of way. To lay down our pride and our ego – the self-part of us that says “me first, I’m more important” – is humanity's greatest challenge. And while animal sacrifice served its purpose and provided a sacred image for us to consider, it was still possible to sacrifice the animal without having to sacrifice our ego. (You still with me? I wrote more about this at Easter… check it out.)
“Forgiveness is the exact place where my ego dies, and I lay down my need to be superior, in control and right.”
Powerful, two minute reads that have helped change the script in thousands of people's lives.
This is the problem. As long as we focus on something/someone else to place our blame and debt, we will never truly know the power of being able to forgive and receive forgiveness.
Now, before you freak out, I’m not trying to say that people shouldn’t have to take responsibility for their actions. Not at all. I’m a huge believer in responsibility. But I also believe that the blood of Christ tells us a story of not just blood-debt paid.
Forgiveness is the exact place where my ego dies, and I lay down my need to be superior, in control and right. It’s a letting go of the idea of “me first, I’m more important.” Perhaps one of Jesus telling lines is “Father, forgive them. They don’t know what they’re doing.” He said this while bleeding to death on an execution device made by an empire who believe they had the right to control the world and its inhabitants.
Jesus became our sacrificial lamb. That's why John the Baptist said:
“Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). But it wasn’t so much to pay a debt as it was to give a gift.
“Much of history has been determined by powerful people telling us whom to fear and hate. Millions of soldiers have given their only lives by believing the lies of Genghis Khan, Napoleon, Stalin, Pol Pot and Hitler, to name a few. If only they had not believed “the masters of the age” and had gazed upon the victim whom first-century Palestine was also taught to fear and hate. He offered us what some call “the intelligence of the victim,” a unique intelligence from the bottom and the side and the edge of history. That’s God’s hiding place, the Scriptures seem to be saying. Jesus took away the sin of the world, by exposing it first of all as different than we imagined, and letting us know that our pattern of ignorant killing, attacking and blaming is in fact history’s primary illusion, its primary lie. Then he shared with us a Great Participative Love, which would make it possible for us not to hate at all.
The game was over after Jesus, at least for those who gazed long enough. We all had to face the embarrassing truth that we ourselves are our primary problem. Our greatest temptation is to try to change other people instead of ourselves. Jesus allowed himself to be transformed and thus transformed others!” – Richard Rohr, “Things Hidden. Scripture as Spirituality.”
This is where blood and story collide…
Written by Liz Milani