Give Up: What Did Jesus Give Up?

“A lot folks think they are generous because they give free advice.”  There seem to be plenty of this going around, especially as it relates to Christianity and the state of the Christ’s Church here in the 21st Century.  Everybody seems to have some opinion whether they are Christian, religious, or an atheist.  And always, the advice seems to have something to do with the theme that the Church needs to change.

But just a week ago the images of 21 Egyptian Christians (Coptic Christians) were beheaded for being “People of the Cross.”  (  That was it.  No other reason unless you want to say it was because they would not renounce their faith in Jesus Christ.  But these 21 did not see a need to change.  The Voice of the Martyrs has documented that the 20th Century was the most dangerous century for Christians.  Somehow we have missed these realities.  Unless you are a missionary or a soldier, it is not likely you will witness the horrors of religious persecution of Christians in our world.  In fact, our society goes out of our way to dismiss and justify murders and martyring with more murder and martyring as if somehow that makes it all okay.

We should be outraged.  We should be outraged over these deaths.  We should be outraged at the death of all who die at the hands of murderers and thugs.  We should be outraged over the death of those who die from preventable diseases, those who die because they have lost housing and are exposed to the elements and those who are without food and clean water!  We should be outraged because where ever we point our finger, three fingers are pointing right back at us.  These 21 did not change.  No, they gave up.  They gave up their very lives for something of greater value.

“Whenever you do it to the least of these, you did it to me,” were the words Jesus spoke ever so clearly and convictingly in Matthew 25:31-46.  Like you, I do not like to hear them referencing my life, either, but there comes a time we must face it, we too play our part in the evils that take place in the world.  We do need to give up our delusions of grandeur and we do need to give up our high horses too.  

You can fight for whatever rights or justification you want but Jesus gave up more.  You can say you deserve your safety and your place in your company, that you’ve earned it but Jesus gave up more.  You can affirm your faith in God and give ten percent but Jesus gave up more.

1 Peter 3:18-22
18For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit, 19in which also he went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison, 20who in former times did not obey, when God waited patiently in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight people, were saved through water. 21And baptism, which this prefigured, now saves you—not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers made subject to him.

“Jesus suffered for sins once for all,” writes Peter.  I know that sin is rather “old fashioned” these days; something reserved for backwoods, uneducated hick preachers it seems.  Fine.  Let’s take a nod from modern essayist and reluctant agnostic, Henry Fairlie who among other things points out that, “Sin is the destruction of one’s self as well as the destruction of one’s relationship with others.” (The Seven Deadly Sins Today).  Dismiss God completely if you’d like but sin still reigns, and based on Fairlie’s definition, I see little end in sight for the reality of sin.  Unless...unless Peter was right.  Maybe Paul too?
Once for all.  Not some. Not who we like.  Not who we choose.  Rom 5:14-15 GNB  But from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, death ruled over all human beings, even over those who did not sin in the same way that Adam did when he disobeyed God's command. Adam was a figure of the one who was to come.  (15)  But the two are not the same, because God's free gift is not like Adam's sin. It is true that many people died because of the sin of that one man. But God's grace is much greater, and so is his free gift to so many people through the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ.
Why don’t we get this? I think, it is our own pride.  Pride in our self-reliance, a false self, a self that is dying, a self we are being called to give-up.  The desert monks of the first centuries saw pride, in the form of judgementalism, to be just about the worst sin.  So at what price are we to give it up?  Our sins Peter says, our “unrighteousness.”  Peter's contrast in verse 18 is as clear a contrast as any in existence.  To be righteous (or just) is the word DIKAIOS which indicates one is conformed to the WILL of God.  It could well be another way of saying one IS God.  (That is in keeping with there is only one who is righteous.  Those who are termed righteous are those who receive the righteousness of Jesus which he exchanges for our unrighteousness.  It does not mean that we become God).

I am not this.  You are not this.  Jesus is this and in the the mystery of the cosmos, Jesus gave up his DIKAIOS and he has willingly taken our ADIKOS (unrighteousness).   Our lives will reflect this change.  Those who surrender their unrighteousness; who acknowledge the wound of sin, must show evidence of doing righteous actions.  1 John 2:29 points this out as John observes,  “If you know that Christ has God's approval, you also know that everyone who does what God approves of has been born from God.”

Rather than thinking of just what it is you’re giving up, Lent is as much about what Jesus gave up.  Here is where it gets tough, I think.  Jesus doesn’t regret what he gave up for you and me.  It is not something the Christ regrets.  The love of God is cruciform, by nature, Jesus shows the love God has for us by sacrificing for us (see Michael J. Gorman’s “Cruciformity).  Can we say the same?  

Jesus Gave Up

As a parent of two teenagers, I am regularly reminded of the difficulties inherent in high school settings.  I say that, as a parent, hearing their stories, as a youth minister, who heard many stories but also having been a teenager and remembering my own story.  Those are hard years for many and the scars don’t disappear easily for those of us who endured wounds.  While things have changed, there remains, I think, striking evidence one thing has not changed: a cultural demand for conformity.

At its healthiest, it is a reminder of “the golden rule” theme of “doing unto others what you want them to do to you.”  At its worst, it drives young people into unhealthy practices of coping that range from depression, to eating disorders, on to rage, and the numerous cases of suicide and murder.  I won’t post links, they should be simple enough to find.  This is not the point though.  I am interested in something else, namely, the wounds.

Morgan Guyton wrote recently about two views of sin.  I agree with Morgan maybe half the time but he always makes me think.  In this case, he reminds.  The reminding took me back to a lecture with Dr. Roberta Bondi at The Academy of Spiritual Formation held at Trinity Center in North Carolina.  If you know Roberta’s work, you’ll know it is in the ancient church, the desert mothers and fathers. In their experiences and writings, there is another theme for sin.  Want to guess what it is?  Wound.

My faith journey has stayed lined up in many ways with the Academy of Spiritual Formation and last week, I was privileged to lead the Five Day Academy we hosted in North Georgia which included Roberta as well.  And again I was reminded.  I was reminded that these same desert mothers and fathers saw judgmentalism as just about the worst sin you could commit.  

Wounds can be nasty, festering things.  The develop infections and on and on they go.  And when we sin, when we pass our judgment on someone else, we pass on the infection.  The woundedness starts to spread.  We get so used to living with infection, with our wound, it just becomes part of our everyday.

But this week’s text from 1 Peter 3:18-22 offers a path to healing.  “For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous…”  Our wound effects all our relationships, with God and with each other.  We hide our wounds, even from the physicians, because often times to get well we must suffer pain.  I know this to be true as I have to watch my wife take chemo, willing taking a poison to kill the cells wounding her.  When we are wounded we have the tendency to lash out, to attack and often that is those closest to us.  So we wound other.  Wounds cause us to go “crazy thinking.”

Jesus however, brings the antidote.  He took our wound and woundedness and gave to us the chance for health, real holistic health - body and spirit.  Jesus redeems the entirety of creation.  He does it with an action which seems otherworldly to us. It is counter to what we've been taught. It is opposite of what conventional wisdom. Yet it is possible and it has been done by ordinary and extraordinary people through the centuries.

Jesus gave up.

But giving up for us is not a one and done activity. My faith journey really began when I gave up but it didn't end there either.  I’ve been doing a lot of giving up through the years and lately, I am coming to see how comfortable I am with my wounds.  I don’t want to give up anymore, really.  But the way forward, the way of the Christ is the way of giving up.

Give up. That is a narrow road indeed.

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