No, Jesus’ Death Was Not Your Fault

No, Jesus’ Death Was Not Your Fault August 7, 2023

“Jesus died for your sins,” makes Jesus’ death your fault. This is spiritually abusive and manipulative. Is there a better understanding?

No, Jesus’ Death Was Not Your Fault. Photo of crucifix statue.
Photo by Alem Sánchez on Pexels

 

“Jesus’ Death Was Your Fault”

I remember the elementary school children gathered around their Sunday school teacher who held up a picture of Jesus on the cross, with blood gushing down. “Do you know why they killed Jesus?” she asked. “Well, Jesus died to take your place. You see, every one of you is a sinner. Each of you has lied to your parents or fought with your brother or sister or said ‘no’ when your mom or dad told you to do something. Those things are sins. And because of your sins, you deserve to die on a cross just like this.”

By now, the kids were wide-eyed in fear. The teacher continued, “God must punish us for our sin, so really, this is what you deserve. But Jesus loved you so much that he told his Father, ‘Punish me instead!’ So, because Jesus loved you, he let them put him on a cross like this. They beat him with whips, put a crown of thorns on his head, nailed him to the cross, and killed him. Jesus’ death was all because of your sin.”

 

Spiritual Abuse

I hope every reader can see just how messed up this is. To show young children a graphic depiction of the crucifixion and then tell them that all this torture and suffering is their fault – this is spiritual abuse. Imagine the heaps of guilt laid upon the heads of little ones! It’s a message that has become so ingrained in Christians that we rarely step back and examine it. But when we look at it critically, we can see how abusive it is.

Imagine this same scenario with a slightly different variation, and you can see what I mean. Picture a mother, telling little Susie, “Your daddy gets so angry when you disobey him. In fact, he gets so angry about your disobedience that he decided one day to throw you into the fireplace and burn you alive. But your brother Tommy loved you so much that he said to your daddy, punish me instead! So, it pleased your daddy to throw Tommy into the fire. Your brother got burned up, and it’s all because you were a disobedient child.”

 

Saved from Sin to Focus on It?

Anyone can see how horrific this story is. As a result of such teaching, we go around focusing on how bad we are—how wretched, sinful, evil, and rotten to the core. It makes sense if we believe that Jesus’s death was our fault, that we would perseverate on our own sin and that of others. But do we think that Jesus died to save us from our sins just so we could focus on them all the time? Do we think he freed us just so our own guilt could hold us in bondage? There must be a better understanding.

Separation from God?

Many say that Christianity addresses the problem of separation from God. The problem comes when we misunderstand the source of that separation. Most Christians believe that we are separated from God because of our sins. The theory goes, “God forced Adam and Eve out of Eden because of their sin. Likewise, our sin separates us from God.” The argument continues, “A holy God cannot look upon sin. So, God had to turn his back on us until Jesus’ blood appeased his wrath. Only those who receive this free gift can escape the wrath of God.” This notion misunderstands both the character of God and the nature of sin. It presumes that we can be separated from God—which is a fallacy.

 

What Sin Isn’t—And What It Is

Sin is not misbehavior. It’s not a bite of forbidden fruit. Instead, it’s better to understand sin as forgetfulness of our divine source. Sin is when we believe ourselves to be separated from God. It’s when we fall into the delusion that anything can come between us. The apostle Paul defied this delusion he said:

Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will affliction or distress or persecution or famine or nakedness or peril or sword?

 …No, in all these things we are more than victorious through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:35,37-39).

 

Paul’s great worry was that we would convince ourselves that we are separated from God. This was the original sin in Eden—not biting into an apple, but humanity believing that such an act could separate them from God. Feeling a sense of separation, they hid from God—and in our delusion, we have been hiding ever since. This delusion of separation is what Jesus came to save us from. Not wrong deeds, but wrong thoughts that sin means we’ve fallen from grace.

 

Reconnecting with the Divine Essence

So, what did Jesus do to overcome sin? If he didn’t take our place on the cross just to appease an angry Father God, what exactly did he do? Jesus showed humanity that there is no distance at all between God and us. By living as the God-Man, Jesus demonstrated that we too can live fully connected two our divine essence. Here are a handful of verses to back that up:

  • John 17:20-23 – “I ask not only on behalf of these but also on behalf of those who believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”
  • Romans 8:29For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family.
  • 1 Corinthians 15:49Just as we have borne the image of the one of dust, we will[g] also bear the image of the one of heaven.
  • 2 Corinthians 3:18 – And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another, for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.

 

Abandoning Our Human Point of View

Unfortunately, we tend to look at people from a human point of view. Because we want to get even when someone harms us, we presume God has the same motivations. But Jesus came to show us that God thinks differently. Jesus invites us to think differently as well. He calls us to abandon our human point of view. 2 Corinthians 5:16-20 says:

From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we no longer know him in that way. So, if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; look, new things have come into being! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. So, we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ: be reconciled to God.

 

Living With No Separation

If Jesus could live with no separation between humanity and divinity, we can too! By living as Jesus taught, we can “have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:18-19, emphasis mine).”

No, Jesus’ Death Was Not Your Fault

Jesus’s death on the cross was not a penalty either for his sin or for yours. Instead, it was a drama played out in real life, declaring that no matter what we do, and no matter how horrific our behavior, God still loves and forgives. “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing,” Jesus cried out from the cross (Luke 23:34). Even while humanity was dishing out its worst, Jesus loved and forgave.

 

So, Was the Crucifixion Necessary?

In the Sermon on the Mount and throughout the rest of his teaching, Jesus declared God’s love and grace. You would think that would’ve been enough to convince us. But still, something more was needed. There can be no greater love than to forgive someone who is actively in the process of torturing and murdering you. In this sense, the crucifixion was necessary as an ultimate opportunity for grace. This forgiveness wasn’t a simple teaching from a mountaintop. It was lived out in the most excruciating way. And despite the pain, love still prevailed. No, Jesus’ death was not your fault—but in that death, we can learn something of God’s love.

 

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