For a little while now I have struggled with the cross, and especially with its brutality. One of the great challenges, for me, of studying theology at university was that it led me to question everything. This has been valuable, and has brought me to a place where I am far more confident and fluent in my faith, but it has been a journey – and at times a painful and frustrating one.
My journey so far has seldom been so hard as when I was called up to do jury duty. It didn’t help that I was half-way through my third year of university, but the real pain came from the case that I was to sit on. For two weeks I spent around 5 hours a day hearing detailed testimony of how a man had sexually abused two children, and as I sat and listened my heart was slowly pulled apart.
I was broken, and I was furious. How could this happen? How could he do that? How could society allow that? How could God allow that? Many times I sat on the train home passionately cursing at God, swearing with every fibre of my being at the ‘all powerful’ One who (to my mind) did not even seem to care. Where was Justice?! I didn’t realise it then, but one thing had become crystal clear to me: the only just consequence of sin is death – and a horrific and painful death at that.
I had always imagined that if God required a sacrifice for atonement then that was sort of a weakness… as if Grace should be big enough to manage without a sacrifice – forgiveness without the gore. But actually that kind of Grace would be shallow and empty – not really Grace at all. It would entirely dismiss Justice.
God sees pain, abuse, injustice, sin… and God cares. God is absolutely FURIOUS. Look again at the Cross – what is that written across Jesus’ forehead? Thats right: PAEDOPHILE. And alongside it? MURDERER. RAPIST. CON-MAN. THIEF. And God is not holding anything back. Righteous wrath pours out on the broken God-man, and has its way with His wrists, His ankles, His head, His back and His side. Justice.
The Cross is horrific. The Cross is brutal. The Cross makes my stomach turn. But if it didn’t then what could we make of God?
Further questions still follow me. Why did God not intervene? Why does God continue not to intervene in suffering and injustice…? But that is for another post, and probably to be learned and worked out for a lifetime and beyond. For now I will simply pray “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done”. Justice, Grace, and Shalom. Amen