A bulwark through the bleakness (Psalm 8)

Psalm 8 is a hymn I regularly turn to stabilize my internal disruption.

In prayerful adoration the psalmist both begins and concludes the hymn “O LORD, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth!”

These words are the bookends for the psalmist’s contemplation of how God’s majesty encompasses the whole of this world. Between those bookends are natural expressions by which we perceive and experience God’s otherwise immeasurable majesty.

Firstly, he says “You have set your glory above the heavens”. It is a statement we readily relate to considering how frequently we, like the psalmist, “look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established”, and praise God for his cosmic creation. Our imagination has always been captivated by the faraway glories of stars and sunsets, our eyes and minds dancing to the beauty and elegance of their movements.

Our thoughts cannot long linger here because the psalmist immediately turns our attention away from the skyward splendor to a more average scene down on earth where another majesty resides. Across the luscious landscape, human beings dot the terrain. Though they be frail, they are formidable. The psalmist is astounded that of all God’s creation, he is most mindful of humankind (vv3-4). The psalmist also acknowledges and appreciates that, having been made a little lower than the angels, God has given humankind dominion over his creation (vv5-6). They are a marvelous majesty.

But the psalmist is also aware there is ugliness. That this sacred dominion has been beaten into weapons we frequently wield against one another. It is into this ugly array the psalmist names a much more intimate expression of this majesty: “Out of the mouths of babes and infants you have founded a bulwark because of your foes, to silence the enemy and the avenger.”

A bulwark was a piece of a wall or tower that extended outward to provide a greater measure of security to the city’s defenses. Standing tall, it raised the city’s occupants and defenders above the noise and threats of the enemy. But how can the voices of the young offer such forbearance?

In Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, Tom Robinson is in jail awaiting trial when a mob of men arrive one night to lynch him. Tom’s lawyer, Atticus, is also there to dissuade them. They’re facing off when Atticus’ children suddenly run up to the jail porch. Despite Atticus demanding they leave, they stay. The situation is at an impasse when Atticus’ young daughter Scout sees Mr. Cunningham, the father of a school boy she once bullied, then befriended. She begins talking to him about his own young son as if nothing is going on around them. Mr. Cunningham’s head is bowed, and the other men feel awkward as well. Suspecting she’s crossed some line, Scout stops and apologizes, at which point Mr. Cunningham comes to his senses, speaks to her courteously like a gentleman, then goes home, telling the other men to do the same. Life was right in front of them, but their single-minded rage could only envision death. It took a young girl’s innocence to restore them to a sense of dignity and decency.

While our violence, smugness, and exploitation cloud our view to the majesties God has instilled all around us in the form of creation and each other, suddenly, from out of the prattling, atheistic noise, the psalmist points the eyes and ears of our hearts to the innocence of the young breaking through the bleakness like a bulwark emerging in the morning fog. We who are made a “little lower” than the angels, but often elevate ourselves as gods, need these lowest versions of ourselves to remind us of the simple majesty our existence already satisfactorily expresses.

As you hear these innocent infants or babbling babes bellow out what Jesus himself would later refer to as praise God has prepared for himself, receive it as sacred majesty meant to “silence the enemy”, as well as our own nitpickings, and restore us to worshipful awareness of GOD at work in this world.

And if any words must be spoken, let them echo the psalmist by praying “O LORD, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth!”

Advertisements

An Attempt to Recover a Biblical Sense of Blessing

I must confess to being long frustrated with many popular concepts of blessing.

Sometimes bless is used as a positive sentiment at the end of a speech or greeting card. There’s the polite, and superstitious, “bless you” when someone sneezes. There is the more material aspect of blessings we either count or hope we experience as health and wealth; Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:45, however seem to frame material blessings as something God has given humans general access to, depending on available resources, fair processes, favorable circumstances, promising opportunities, and industriousness. There is also the calculating usage of quid pro quo (if you do X, you will be blessed). Whatever the intentions of these usages, their substance seems in want of the weightiness actual blessedness should bring. If limited to these usages, the concept of blessing will continue to be an unremarkable one. Thankfully, Scripture points to a blessedness of far greater substance.

Ephesians is probably Paul’s most exultant letter; understandably since his entire attention is captivated by Christ, resurrected and raised to the heavenly throne “far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is not, not only in this age but also in the age to come” (Eph1:21). It is Paul’s desire to animate his audience with resurrection reality (Eph2:4-7).

He does this from the letter’s outset, contemplating the abundance of God’s blessedness: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” (Eph1:3).

Variations of the word bless occur three times in this verse. The first time frames the Father as the One from whom all blessedness flows; the second time identifies us-in-Christ as the eventual recipients of the Father’s blessedness. The third time names the heavenly places, where Christ reigns, as the locale of the Father’s blessedness. This blessedness, put simply, is the exultant reality emanating from Christ’s reign which we-in-Christ are elected to receive and participate in as his royal people.

If that explanation sounds a bit starry-eyed, Paul proceeds to elaborate on five finer-pointed features of this blessedness the Church experiences in Christ.

First, we-in-Christ have been blessed with adoption (Eph1:5-6). Upon enthroning Christ as King, the Father expands his household to those who recognize sin for the homelessness it is (Eph2:19), and instead choose to allegiantly dwell in the home of his holiness (Eph2:21). Wherever you are, whatever you perceive, in Christ you are of the Father’s household. Let that blessedness be as a signal banner waving in your mind. 

Second, we-in-Christ have been blessed with forgiveness and redemption (Eph1:7-8a). A part of the blessedness belonging to the Father’s household is forgiveness. In Eph3:18, Paul measures out the unfathomable “breadth and length and height and depth” of God’s love. Forgiveness requires these vast dimensions to cover sin’s wide spread. In addition to unburdening our souls of sin’s shame, this blessedness also brings us back to something better, a redemptive reality for which we were always designed.

Third, we-in-Christ have been blessed with an eschatological hope (Eph1:8b-10). While many end times or apocalyptic discussions often focus on more nightmarish imagery, here Paul finds blessed assurance that in Christ, all things, in heaven and earth, are being brought into submission to Christ’s cosmic rule. Whenever we look around and exasperatedly lament “What is the world coming to?”, this point of blessedness boasts that God is sovereignly moving all history towards a good future in which Christ has the last word in everything.

Fourth, we-in-Christ have been blessed with a heritage of holy ones (Eph1:11-12). Right relationship with God isn’t restored simply so we can dispense with living in right relationship with others. Within the Father’s household we have been blessed with family. In Christ, we’ve been given the gift of each other. This Church community gives visible expression to restored harmony with humanity. As the earthly body of big brother Jesus, we are God’s resurrection people, worthily embodying the kind of community that demonstrates to the world what reconciliation to God, creation, and each other is supposed to look like. Holiness in a vacuum is always incomplete; holiness is harmonized in the blessedness of being with and belonging to each other.

Finally, we-in-Christ have been blessed with the presence of God’s personhood (Eph1:13-14). It is the head of the household who sets the standard and tone for what that household will be about. The Holy Spirit is the living dynamic by whom the Father perpetually puts His household in holy and harmonizing order. Throughout Ephesians Paul speaks of the Holy Spirit as the presence that provides us access to the Father, the power that strengthens our own inner spirit, the mediator through whom Christians are unified and Christian living is aligned, and the outfitter who clads us in the protections of Jesus’ person. By shaping in us ever-maturing personhood of Christ, the Holy Spirit is the blessing through whom all God’s blessedness is continually conveyed.

How might this concept of Biblical blessing impact the Church?

First, it establishes in our minds and hearts the foundational fact that, in Christ, we are already blessed. Many of the other popular usages nurture an anxious waiting and wanting for a blessedness we are prevented from realizing we have already received in Christ.

Second, it presents God’s blessedness within a framework that promotes wholesomeness rather than fragmented or compartmentalized living. This blessedness begins as the heavenly reality God’s Spirit shapes in our spirits on Earth, then gradually correlates into the physical and emotional expressions we all deeply desire to experience as humans—assurance, actualization, affirmation, community, hope, purpose.

Third, it stirs us to active engagement. Continually waiting and praying for a blessedness we’re unaware we already possess in Christ passively undermines the Church’s witness and mission. Realizing we-in-Christ are already blessed moves us away from our passivity of perceived lack and empowers us to actively live from out of the abundance of God’s blessedness.

My prayer is, not that God would bless you, but that you would awaken to the blessedness God has already abundantly poured out in Christ—a home made of His holiness, a belonging made of each other, a redemption restoring humanity, a view to the blessed end, and a presence that permeates and empowers for His purposes. May it be the foundation from which your faith is lived forth.

Why the resurrection will make marriage unnecessary

Our congregation has been recently exploring what the New Earth could be like; the discussions have been interesting. Our topic this past Sunday focused on if we will be married. The subject becomes front and center in Matthew 22 when the Sadducees challenge Jesus with an absurd hypothetical: “In the resurrection, then, whose wife of the seven [husbands she married] will she be?”

Jesus responded “You are wrong, because you know neither the scriptures nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.”

Scripture has a lot to say about marriage: how we’re designed for relationship, God’s purposes for marriage, how holiness is to characterize marriage, how we are to treat our spouses. So after all the page-space and historical emphasis Scripture invests into marriage, why does marriage now get so easily discarded in the resurrection? A legitimate question to be sure.

Perhaps a more instructive question to ask, however, could be what is it about the resurrection that makes marriage unnecessary?

Jesus doesn’t explain. Since the Sadducees didn’t really believe in the resurrection, their question is a ruse he swiftly moves past. Yet the issue remains. How can all the energy, emotions, commitments, and sacrifice people have invested in their marriages be suddenly made irrelevant? We must look elsewhere in Scripture for possible answers. Thankfully, I believe Scripture provides those answers.

Ephesians is probably Paul’s most noteworthy text on resurrection living. Much of its latter half is spent explaining how the reality of the resurrection uniquely redefines our relationships and behavior. Concerning marriage, in Ephesians 5:22-33, Paul draws a significant correlation between a husband and wife’s marriage to Christ and the Church. Paul patterns the relationship dynamics between a husband and wife after Christ and the Church. Since the Church is the body of believers whose lives inhabit that of Jesus’ through his love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and continence, marriage becomes the perfect setting for such virtues to be authentically and maturely grown. In light of the reality-altering redemption Jesus’ resurrection affects, marriage is now most meaningful as a reflection of the covenant between Christ and the Church. In short, marriage potentially trains us to be the people of God. One could even call Christ-centered marriage a practicum.

If we also look carefully at Paul’s first letter to Timothy, who was then ministering at Ephesus, we can see this same idea at play. While there are several comparative examples, the clearest is probably 1 Timothy 3:5 where Paul bases a church leader’s competency on the quality of his home life. Possibly the process was learning Christian discipline from a teacher, practicing it at home with family, and continuing maturing with the assembled congregation. By learning to follow Jesus, they learn to lead their families, which subsequently teaches them to encourage and build up the larger congregation. From the teacher to the person, to the family, to the congregation, Christ is given expansive exposure and attention “until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ.”

From this perspective, the Christ-centered covenant between husband and wife is ultimately meant to move us deeper into the Christ-centered covenant with each other, his body the Church. Perhaps it is this perspective that begins to help us see why the resurrection renders marriage unnecessary, or rather, ultimately fulfills marriage. By the time of the resurrection, marriage will have played its part in nurturing the communal intimacy rooted in God’s love for us and expressed in our love for each other. Christ-centered marriage trains us to love so that when God establishes the New Earth, Christ-centered love is both new and natural.

The struggle with this topic is the dissolving of a precious bond so many people have spent so many years nurturing. It seems to make marriage meaningless. But rather than the dissolving of a precious bond, the Scriptures point to the uniting of a billion bonds more. They reveal that when “the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready”, the love which has flowed from Christ will bind us into a blessed belonging with those whom God has joined together, forever.

How will we worship in the New Earth?

On Sunday I was asked “How will we worship in the New Earth?”

It ended up being a pretty interesting conversation. While much was discussed, I felt there were two main thoughts that stood out and could be worth sharing here.

The first thought is that worship is more about how we live in relation to God and each other than it is about a praise service.

One of the commonest images the Church reinforces about life on the New Earth is that we will be constantly worshipping God. I don’t think this concept is necessarily wrong, but in a church culture where worship usually evokes the worship service, it encourages the idea that eternity will just be one long praise time. Thankfully, Scripture depicts worship more broadly than we often do.

While there are many passages that could be explored here, for the sake of summary, I think Romans 12:1 is sufficient for now. Here, in light of the new life in Christ, Paul appeals to his Roman brothers and sisters in Christ “to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”

Notice how Paul connects worship to living the holy life. From there Paul goes on to elaborate in detail how that might be done, and if you read what he writes, it’s obvious he’s hardly referencing a Sunday praise service. He’s talking about how we do life together in the ways that reflect Jesus.

So if we frame the question in more Scriptural terms, we are really asking “How will we do life together in the New Earth?”

The second thought, therefore, is God has designed the Church’s culture to be an anticipation of the New Earth’s culture.

Much of how life will be lived in the resurrection remains a mystery. Even so, there are clues. Again, there are several passages that could be explored here, but for now, Ephesians 3:8-11 is quite instructive. Having explained how through Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection all things in Heaven and Earth are being brought into subjection to Christ, Paul writes “This grace was given to me…to make everyone see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things; so that through the church the wisdom of God in its rich variety might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was in accordance with the eternal purpose that he has carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord”.

Notice how it is through the Church that God’s plan is revealed to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places (possibly angelic and demonic forces). They were unaware of what God was intending. Though these are things angels long to look into (1 Peter 1:12), God’s kingdom mysteries are reserved for the people of God (Mt 13:11, Heb 2:5), for whose revealed glory all creation waits (Rom 8:19).

What is so unique about what the Church is supposed to reveal? It is the life Jesus teaches us to live; the way the Holy Spirit empowers and leads us upon. As the body of Christ, the Church and her culture are the perpetual revelation of Jesus and his holy character. Jesus’ “sermon on the mount” is a prime example of what Christian culture is called to be; an “on earth as it is in heaven” way of living. If this way of living originates in Heaven, I suggest it is because the Church’s Christ-shaped culture is designed by God as an anticipation of the New Earth culture for which we shall be resurrected.

There’s an old line that goes “Heaven—I wouldn’t miss it for the world”. While the line’s enthusiasm should be appreciated, it should also be acknowledged that through the ways of Jesus which God’s Spirit has set into us, the reality of the New Earth is already partially available. To miss it, or ignore it, or wait for Heaven for it would be to miss out on the completeness of the good news God offers us.

How will we worship in the New Earth? By doing then perfectly the Life together Christ has called the Church to lean into and now live faithfully.

Jesus’ invitation to Martha

Over the years, Martha from Luke 10:38-42 has come to be treated with a sort of condescension. A tension seems to have surrounded Martha and how she is interpreted. Many years ago a book was written encouraging readers to “Have a Mary Heart in a Martha World”. I did not read it (so perhaps I am ignorantly misjudging), but the title alone seems to lean toward a dismissiveness of Martha or pits the sisters’ spirituality against one another. I recently asked a minister for his thoughts on Martha; he commented she just thought she was better than Mary.

Such interpretations have not only done Martha an injustice, but have created within the Church an occasional Gnostic-like tendency to cast chores, tasks, or projects in an unspiritual light as work that gets in God’s way. I have known many Christian women who are very much like how Martha is depicted in the text—hospitable, generous, hardworking, multitasking, and a bit bossy. You likely know them, too. They are your mothers and sisters, wives and daughters, grandmothers and aunts. They energetically bounce from the laundry to vacuuming to cooking dinner to washing dishes to jumping large Lego-set buildings in a single bound. And do they occasionally raise voice to make us get with the program? They most certainly and, I daresay, rightfully do. If my Mom tells me to help her take the turkey out of the oven or to set the table, I don’t tell her to chill out. It therefore seems antithetical to Christian living to suggest that serving Jesus and his followers, even with a bit of a bite, is somehow bad behavior.

What if, however, Martha’s service or even snappiness had little to do with what is happening here? What if, rather, Jesus’ response concerned what Martha was not yet experiencing?

It should be noted that neither the text, nor Jesus actually condemns her tasks, which would have included preparing food and accommodations for guests. In fact, Martha’s actions are appropriately normal for the role society had placed on her. Here, as through history, women prided and distinguished themselves by keeping and offering the home as a haven for their families and guests. By recognizing Jesus’ prominence, inviting him and the disciples into her home, and providing them with food, shelter, and a preaching platform, Martha is executing her role with an excellence any Jew would praise. In her meticulousness, however, she was unaware of or distracted from how the reality of her role is expanding right in her home.

The boundary lines were clearly labeled by years of tradition. Surely Mary knew her role in society, that she was to prepare and provide. Yet here Mary sits at Jesus’ feet. Surely Jesus also knew the rules, that when the men assembled to listen to rabbis, the women were to remain in separate locations. Yet here he teaches without sending her away.

One could see this as just another one of Jesus’ social faux pas. Or, considering his mission to proclaim and ordain the Kingdom of God, Jesus’ actions could also be understood as the welcoming of women into a fellowship with himself that was equal to that of the men. As Mary is blessedly tuning into this new kingdom reality, however, Martha is busy carrying out her duty, all the while noticing her sister is not. “Doesn’t she know her place in this world? What is more, the rabbi is not redirecting her back to her place.” Of course she raised an objection; there’s a way of life and duty to safeguard.

Notice the numerical contrast Jesus draws in his response. He describes Martha as distracted by “many things”. He then adds “there is need of only one thing”.

The “many things” really aren’t the problem. On any day, Martha and Mary would have had “many things” to tend. What puts these tasks out of place on this day, however, is the king in the living room proclaiming the good news that is redefining the reality of everyone and the roles they play in God’s kingdom. Martha doesn’t have to give up her tasks, and Jesus doesn’t want her to. But he does want her to understand that the margins in which society has framed her role are expanding in light of the kingdom reality being learned in her living room. To understand this, Jesus wants her there with him and the other kingdom citizens. In this sense, Jesus’ words to her could be seen as an invitation to enter into what Mary had already joined.

If she did, she might begin to gain the sense that in Christ “there is no longer male or female”. She might also begin to see the hospitality and generosity she showed and shared would soon characterize Jesus’ early church body. Perhaps afterward, her, Mary, and even the disciples and Jesus would all pitch in with the tasks, learning to do life together.

Neither Martha or her tasks were the underlying issue; both just needed to be recontextualized to God’s kingdom. This time devoted to the “one thing” would come to set the tone for approaching and accomplishing the “many things” so that from the “one thing” would flow a joy, peace, and purpose permeating the “many things”.

We all have roles; we all have duties. They become ambiguous and our frustration grows when those roles and duties are not being lived out from the kingdom context in which God has framed them.  In light of the kingdom reality Christ calls us into, I pray you and your roles and duties may enter into a faith-filled spaciousness that opens your heart up to the redemption, community, and purpose his presence brings. I hope there you find the grace, clarity, and dignity that blesses and refreshes your heart for service.

The wizarding tent of Jesus Christ

Over the past year, I’ve periodically circled back to various Scripture passages (Ephesians 1, Philippians 2, Colossians 1:15-20, Hebrews 1:1-4, John 1 and it’s correlation to Genesis 1) in an exploration of how Jesus’ divinity and humanity combine to redeem both heavenly and earthly realities. There is much here to explore, and each time I have tried writing it out I am stunned by the vastness of the dimensions and nuances Scripture displays. In the meantime, however, perhaps an illustration would suffice; one that comes to mind whenever I reread these passages.

One of the most endearing aspects of JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series are the depictions of various magical novelties: wands, invisibility cloaks, animated paintings, floating staircases, hats that judge you. Like so many others, I found these to be quite a bit of fun. But the one that amazed me the most was the wizarding tent.

When Harry arrives at a tent-city for a Quidditch tournament, he is led to a quite average-sized pup tent. After several of his sizeable friends enter the tent, Harry approaches cautiously, concerned about space. Upon entering the magical tent, however, he delightfully discovers the inside is much extravagantly larger than the outside. Its greater length, width, and depth give mindboggling dimension to the deceptively modest canvas exterior. In addition to its spaciousness, simple luxury adorns the interior—cushioned armchairs, coffee table, curtains, bunkbeds, woodstove, area rugs, a kitchen with tables and chairs, plants, and a bookshelf. The atmosphere is perfect for allowing the friends to relax for joyful interaction and celebration. Awed by all this, Harry comments “I love magic!”

The Christological idea I am attempting to draw from this illustration is that though Jesus’ incarnate fleshly form is utterly average, within lies a magnificent multi-dimensional majesty that welcomes us in to what feels like home.

Interestingly, this imagery may not be without comparative Scriptural precedent. In the beginning of John’s gospel, the apostle writes “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

The root definition for the Greek word dwelt means to live in or pitch one’s tent. In essence, God pitched a tent and lived among humankind through the fleshly form of Jesus.

This imagery may be additionally supported by Jesus’ “x-ray-like” transfiguration where, in Luke 9, his appearance becomes splendorous, gleaming like lightning, as he walks gloriously with Moses and Elijah.

What’s more, when the LORD’s glorious presence was originally revealed to the people of Israel, God dwelt in a tent (Exodus 40:34-35).

There may have been a time when the LORD’s glory was shielded from Israel; and there was a time when Jesus told his disciples not to talk about him and the things they saw. But no longer. Jesus now definitely wants us to pay attention to the GOD behind the curtain.

To borrow Paul’s famous prepositional phrase, by abiding “in Him” through belief and obedience, we come to learn that Jesus’ inside is much greater than his outside.

Through his external nail-pierced hands, we learn “in Him” how to extend our own hands in blessing. Through his dust-covered feet, we learn “in Him” to leave peace in the paths we tread. Through his dry tongue that still deliberately spoke on the cross, we learn “in Him” to lace our language with grace and truth.

“In Him” all reality finds renewal as new creation is taking shape. “In Him” we find a vast community that now constitutes his body. “In Him” the Church body demonstrates to the world a better way of being and doing. As we abide “in Him” creation catches a glimpse of the redemption it will one day enjoy. “In Him” is an entire world of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and continence. Within the person of Jesus, we are being restored to wholeness.

These ideas are not merely the study of Christ. They are an exploration of “inside-out living”. In Christ we are learning to live out his inside through our outside. We are the physical correlation of his divine reality. It’s not magical; it’s miraculous. In view of his incarnate and transcendent majesty, our lives can enter into a perpetual wonder that marvels “I love GOD”.

Why blood was God’s currency

During the Lord’s Supper, we drink grape juice because it represents Jesus’ blood shed on the cross. If we go back further to when the Passover sacrifice was established, the lamb’s blood spread on the Israelite doorposts was the sign sparing them from death.

Why this emphasis on blood in the first place? Why blood at all? In a basic sense, blood makes all humans equal. Regardless of position or possession, blood is the one supply-and-demand we all share that means everything. But how or why did blood sacrifice become the system of exchange that balanced man’s relationship to God? To answer we must look even further back to when sacrifice was unnecessary.

All creation is God’s masterpiece; but human beings, affectionately created in God’s image, are creation’s centerpiece. God made humans just a little lower than the angels so they could fruitfully embody God’s goodness. This unique role required a unique substance.

In the creation story, Genesis 2:7 says “then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being.”

We know from anatomy that the oxygen which flows into our lungs also seeps into our blood stream, which carries that oxygen all throughout our bodies, animating us with life. Blood, therefore, is the conductor of God’s most precious valuable—Life.

This life enabled human beings to abide in a shared goodness with God, each other, and all creation. When human beings disobeyed and sinned against God, however, it corrupted the goodness of the life being conducted in the blood flow within their veins. This corrupting act thus established enmity or hostility between humanity and God, removing them from the intimate fellowship they once freely enjoyed with God and each other. Enmity estranges family, turning communities into customers and competitors. It is enmity that essentially creates the need for an exchange system. Goodness must now be crudely bartered. But what price could restore the value of the now diminished life flowing through human veins?

At this point, sadly, restoration is impossible. Concerning the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, God had already told the humans that “in the day that you eat of it you shall die”. Destruction is their destiny now.

It is at this point of no return, however, that God, for the first time, introduces something that limits sin’s fallout—grace. God gracefully grants humans a lease on life. As for the debt of the goodness they squandered, God balances the books through the flowing stream of God-blessed blood. Not theirs, but that of animals.

According to Genesis 1:22 and 1:30, animals were God-blessed and had in them the “breath of life”. Though not as ceremonially elaborate as the eventual sacrificial systems that gave dimension and definition to covenants, sin, and law, Genesis 3:21 displays what could likely be the original sacrifice as “the LORD God made garments of skins for the man and for his wife, and clothed them”. As the God-given conductor of life, blood has thus become a kind of currency.

However, animals were not created in God’s image as humans were. Therefore their sacrifice would not be enough to restore humanity to right relationship with God. Though God-blessed creatures who have life within their blood, their sacrifice would merely be sufficient to “break even”. It simply reinforces the system of exchange which only anticipates the next transaction. With such a system in place to negotiate man’s relationship to God, humans would only ever remain in want of God’s intimacy. A sacrifice would be needed that would not only ultimately satisfy the balance the system required, but one that would decommission the system entirely. Such a sacrifice would require the blood of one created in the image of God, whose goodness was uncorrupted, and who possessed a transcendence allowing their sacrifice to be eternally applicable.

Jesus more than meets these criteria. His holy and God-man blood shed on the cross overwhelmingly satisfies the balance this system has always demanded, finally quenching its thirst for goodness. This debt finally settled, the Spirit of God again breathes anew the breath of life permeated with God’s intimate presence, raising Jesus from the dead.

Jesus’ resurrection is the beginning of God’s restoration of all that has been estranged. The sacrifice of blood no longer need be made to get in on God’s restoration because that system of exchange has been completed. We no longer need to owe God or live with a debtor’s burden shouldered upon our soul. The only sacrifice left for us to make is a living one animated by the lifeblood Jesus gave. To do this we abide in Christ by belief and obedience, through which, like blood to the body, flow the Spirit’s Life unto fruitfulness.