Why the Sacrifice of Christ was Necessary

I’ve said before that we don’t really believe in sin. “Sinners” are charming rogues, we think. Oh sure, I’m sinner. But I’m alright as is our charming, roguish little species. We get into a little trouble sometimes. We’re only human after all. But at bottom, we’re okay and don’t need too much help from God. Certainly this dramatic “sacrifice” business is old-fashioned overkill. We’ll pay respectful attention to Jesus’ offer of advice, but all those demands for conversion of heart and death to self are not necessary any more. We are integrated adult personalities.

Here’s a letter from a reader who puts into perspective just why Jesus had to endure such a sacrifice for us:

Sometimes I learn about something that casts a light on the reason for the desperate expedient of the Sacrifice.

The following is from a description of an NS trial – what we in this country call a war crimes trial – in Germany in the 70s.

It’s from an essay in a book called The Healing Wound, by Gitta Sereny:

‘The first defendant is called to the stand…He is a man of fifty-two, married, three children. Profession: grocer…

The judge: ” Herr R, let me just read to you what this part of the accusation says, and then we’ll see what you have to say about it.”

He reads, without expression: “Johann R is accused, as SS chief of guards of the forced labor camp T in June 1943, on the course of the liquidation of the city’s ghetto, to have caught about sixty children under ten years of age who had tried to hide…to have stood them up alongside a pit, to have killed them individually through repeated blows on their heads with a hammer, whereupon the bodies fell into the pit, while their parents were forced to watch….”

“Well now, Herr R, you’ve heard the accusation. What do you have to say?”

R (portentous and fluent): “I want to do everything to help the court, of course, but this was so long ago.”

Judge: “One could hardly forget such a scene – unless of course it happened so often….”

“It is of course entirely untrue,” R said very quickly. “Entirely a lie.”

Judge: “Four witnesses are here to confirm what has just been read to you. They saw it happen. They will swear that they saw you do this.”

R (straightening up): ‘Whatever was done, whatever we did, all of us, any of us, we did under orders.”

Judge: “Did you know that no one is obliged to obey a criminal order? Did you know that this was part of the Army code and applied all through the time of the Third Reich [note: There is no record that I am aware of that anyone was ever punished for refusing to carry out such an order during the Third Reich - A.]

R: “An order is an order.”

Judge: “But these were children, small children.” He stopped for a moment, a visible effort at control. “Tell me, Herr R did you consider Russians, Poles, Jews human, or not?”

[No answer. Defense counsel speaks with his client, then with the court.]

Judge: “You can go and sit down for a moment,” he says stonily. “You will be recalled later.”

[End of text]

Note, Herr R is not a theatrical monster from outer space. He’s one of us. Blood of our blood. A human being.

When God became one of us and subjected himself to a horrible, prolonged death by flogging and crucifixion it was because we are, among other things, Herr R.

Do we recognize our humanity in Herr R, as well as in the judge? If we don’t, we will be unable to understand the Sacrifice on Golgotha.


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