What Did Jesus Die For?

The two key principles and the most important tenets of Christianity are that:

1.         Jesus died for our sins

2.         Jesus was God incarnate

I have heard many Christians and priests say that “If Jesus was not raised from the dead and is not the son of God than our religion is a farce.”  I think both premises are faulty and show that most people do not really understand what Jesus died for.  I would like to dispute the first premise that Jesus died for our sins.  Many people have already challenged the second premise. 

Jesus did not die for my sins.  As much as it might hurt your feelings to know this, I seriously doubt that he died for your sins either.  Jesus was born some 2020 years ago.  That is at least 1900 years before either you or I were born.  Jesus did not know either of us.  He did not know me and frankly I can’t really think of any sins that I have committed that would be worth dying for.  However, I can’t speak for you.  But even assuming that you are a serial killer, Jesus would not have had any way to know about your aberrant lifestyle. 

So, what did Jesus die for?

Maybe Jesus died for his naivete.  Did Jesus really think the Scribes and Pharisees and Romans were going to lay down their hatred for each other and commit to a new religion that broke with sacred traditions?  Religious beliefs and protocols that they had been practicing for hundreds of years.  This was an egregious overreach on the part of Jesus, if we assume that he was naive enough to think that he had a chance of changing them.

“For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and everyone who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Maybe Jesus died because he had a martyr complex.  Did Jesus perhaps believe that his only path to the acceptance of his new ideas was by sacrificing himself?  Did Jesus think that once they killed him, his murderers would all suddenly feel compassion and for his precepts?  If he did, then he seriously underestimated the difficulty that people have in accepting new ideas. 

“My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.”

Maybe Jesus died because he miscalculated his popularity.  Perhaps Jesus was taken in by the cheering crowds when he entered Jerusalem that Passover weekend.  He may have assumed that they would stage some kind of an uprising or protest to protect their new Messiah.  Instead they chose to save Barabbas and not Jesus.

“And behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with Me, to give every man according as his work shall be. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.”

Maybe Jesus died because he trusted his apostles too much.  Much has been made of the perfidy of Judas who sold Jesus out for thirty pieces of silver.  Much has also been made of the cowardice of his 12 apostles who spent the time that Jesus was being interrogated and executed in hiding lest they be crucified with him.  It would be accurate to say that they were not particularly good at having Jesus’s back. 

“Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?”

So, what did Jesus die for?

Jesus did not die for fame.  The story of his dealing with Satan on the mountain clearly shows that Jesus could not be tempted by fame.

Jesus did not die for glory.  He had no desire to be the Messiah that the Jewish people wanted. He said many times that his kingdom was not of this world.

Jesus did not die for wealth.  Jesus led a life of frugality and poverty.  He believed in giving more to others than he received in return.  Jesus said that if someone sues you and gets your shirt, you should also give them your coat.

Jesus did not die for power.  Jesus believed in giving to Caesar what belonged to Caesar and he never attempted any coups of the power structure that existed among the Jews.  Jesus made it clear that the first should be last and that a leader must be a follower. 

So, what did Jesus die for?

If we accept that Jesus was no fool, there must have been something especially important that Jesus knew was worth dying for.  I believe that there was, and Jesus clearly knew what it was.  By his death, Jesus could show the world the power that was in this idea.  Perhaps the only idea that Jesus would have been willing to die for.  By dying for this idea, he made more changes in the world than could have been brought about by war, famine, disease, or political intrigue.  The measure of his influence can be appreciated in the following verses:

One Solitary Life by James Allan Francis (1926)

He was born in an obscure village, The child of a peasant woman.  He grew up in still another  village where he worked until he was thirty. Then for three years he was an itinerant preacher.

He never wrote a book.  He never held an office.  He never had a family or owned a home.  He didn’t go to college.  He never traveled more than 200 miles from the place he was born.

He did none of the things one usually associates with greatness.  He had no credentials but himself; he was only thirty-three when public opinion turned against him.

His friends ran away.  He was turned over to his enemies and went through the mockery of a trial.  He was nailed to the cross between two thieves.  While he was dying his executioners gambled for his clothing, the only property he had on earth.

When he was dead he was laid in a borrowed grave through the pity of a friend.  Nineteen centuries have come and gone and today he is the central figure of the human race,the leader of mankind’s progress.

All the armies that ever marched, all the navies that ever sailed, all the parliaments that ever sat, all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man on earth as much as that One Solitary Life.

So, what did Jesus die for?

Jesus died for the most elemental force in the universe.  Jesus died for love.  Not a love for things, money, or material goods which our societies are obsessed with today.  Had Jesus loved these things, he would never have died.  He would have been hailed as a hero and honored in the halls and palaces where the rich and famous lived. 

Jesus died because he preached love for humanity.  When Jesus was born, there was no sin in the world for loving things too much.  The same is true today, but Jesus preached that love for things and money was evil and sinful when life revolved around the acquisition of these things.  It was not money itself that was evil but the means that people used to acquire money and fame and power.  Jesus preached that it is not wealth which is sinful but the worship of wealth.  This is a distinction that is ignored and not well understood by many in all religions today.

People could live with a Messiah who preached love for things.  The Prosperity Gospel so popular among televangelists and some Christians preaches that money and wealth are God’s blessings for Christians who do good works.  Even mainstream Christians do not see any evil in piling up hoards of money while the income inequality in our country grows.  Money is viewed as a blessing for hard work and faith in Jesus. 

But Jesus taught that money was the root of all evil.  The sin was in loving money and wealth more than the human beings in your culture.  It was a sin to have so much when others had so little.  It was a sin not to help the poor and the sick and the needy.  But just like now, the people blame the poor for being poor.  “If they are poor, it is their own fault.”  The poor are accused of being lazy or stupid.  The sick are blamed for being sick.  If they get the Covid 19 virus, it is their own fault.

Jesus died because he condemned the mindless and greedy acquisition of money and material goods.  Jesus would have been appalled to hear people say that “I love my car.”  Or “I love my new shoes.”  For Jesus, love was for people not for things.  The very use and associations of the word love today speaks to the values that people hold in our society.  There is more love of things today than there is love for people.

Jesus gave a new commandment to the world when he told his disciples:

“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Jesus was a radical and radicals never fare well.  Nothing could be more radical in Jesus’s time or our time than to preach that you should:

  • Love the poor
  • Love the sick
  • Love the needy
  • Love the oppressed
  • Love the dispossessed
  • Love those different from you culturally
  • Love all people including people of a different skin color
  • Love the immigrants without a home
  • Love the downtrodden
  • Love the Ex-Felon
  • Love people who have different sexual orientations

2000 years have passed and if Jesus were alive today, he would be tried and found guilty of heresy and executed.   His crime would be “Preaching Love.”

Jesus died because he exhorted others to love all people.

P.S.

I wrote the above blog with thoughts of Father Sthokal in my mind. A man who loved all people. Father Sthokal passed away on August 11, 2020. I attended many retreats when Father Sthokal was Retreat Director at Demontreville. He was 98 years old and a Jesuit for 78 years. He received licentiate degrees in philosophy and theology and a master’s degree in English from St. Louis University. He talked like a common man but had the mind of a genius and the heart of a truly compassionate individual.

Religious Arrogance: Will the Meek Really Inherit the Earth?

My religion is better than your religion.  “My God” is better than your God.  My beliefs are more righteous than your beliefs.  My faith is more valuable than your faith. Image

How many people have been killed in the name of “My God” and “My Religion?”  How many wars have been fought over religious differences? How many countries have been devastated and destroyed because of religious intolerance? How many true believers have killed the infidels because of religious beliefs?  How many heretics, witches, blasphemers and apostates have been burned at the altar of religious intolerance?  How many missionaries have persecuted and converted the “godless” pagans who did not share their religious ideologies?

The answers to these questions my friends are not blowing in the wind.  The answers to these questions are written in blood, murder, rape, assassination and pillage from the time of Cain and Abel to our present day battles between Christians and Moslems, Jews and Arabs and Hindus and Tamils.  From the battles between the Israelites and the Philistines to the Inquisition, to the Salem Witch Trials, to the Holocaust, to the Genocide in Rwanda and the rapes in Bosnia, religious beliefs and religious differences have been center stage to some of the most horrendous crimes in history.

 Lowest estimate killed

Highest estimate killed

Event

Place

From

To

Religions involved

3,000,000 11,500,000[10] Thirty Years’ War Holy Roman Empire 1618 1648 Protestants &Catholics
2,000,000 4,000,000[11] French Wars of Religion France 1562 1598 Protestants &Catholics
1,000,000 3,000,000[12] Nigerian Civil War Nigeria 1967 1970 Islam &Christian
1,000,000[13] 2,000,000 Second Sudanese Civil War Sudan 1983 2005 Islam &Christian
1,000,000[14] 3,000,000[15] Crusades Holy Land, Europe 1095 1291 Islam &Christian
130,000[16] 250,000 Lebanese Civil War Lebanon 1975 1990 SunniShiiteand Christian

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religious_war

I have a t-shirt that says “God Bless Everyone, No Exceptions.”   Most of the shirts that I wear sport some kind of a motivational quote or political idea.  I refuse to allow my apparel to advertise football teams, sporting companies, motorcycles or most any “for profit” endeavors.  I figure they make enough money so they can do their own marketing.  However, I do like to share my ideas about how the world should be run.  Of the several t-shirts I wear with a “motivational” message, the “God Bless etc.” shirt never fails to get a response.  I have had dozens of people who come up and say “I really like that message.”  I am sure some wonder just what I mean.  Can he really be suggesting that everyone deserves a blessing?

I find it gratifying that so many people are willing to endorse the idea of a God who knows “No Exceptions.”  This fact really surprises me since I have been to countless religious meetings and festivals wherein people shout and sing about “MY GOD.”  Here are some lyrics from a typical song about God.

My God is awesome, awesome, awesome, awesome

My God is awesome and awesome, awesome, awesome

Holy, Awesome, Awesome

He’s Great, He’s Great, He’s Great, He’s Great, Awesome, Awesome

He’s mighty, He’s mighty, He’s mighty,

Charles Jenkins – Awesome Lyrics | Metro Lyrics uo

I wonder as I listen to such outpourings of religious fervor, whether “MY” God is not also the same God as the Jewish God, Hindu God, Buddhist God, Catholic God, Muslim God and all the other Gods that various people believe in.  Is “MY” God the only “awesome” God?  Or am I so uncertain in my faith that I must continually recite how powerful and awesome “MY” God is.  The thought that the “Man doth protest too much” comes repeatedly to my mind.

Why do I have to keep repeating ad nausea how awesome “My God” is?   What is the difference between “MY God” and your God?  I guess your God is really a loser and probably a wimp.  Unless of course, your God and “MY God” are the same.  But then your God would be as awesome as “My God” and that could not be.  See, if your God was as awesome as My God, then your religion would be as awesome as my religion and that would never do.  How could I justify killing you or at the very least trying to convert you if your religion and God were as awesome as “MY God?”

“The earth is flat, and anyone who disputes this claim is an atheist who deserves to be punished.”Sheik Abdel-Aziz Ibn Baaz, Supreme religious authority, Saudi Arabia

“No, I don’t know that Atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God.”– George H.W. Bush, USA

Many people in America believe that this is a Christian Nation.”  There is a firm belief that this country was founded by men who were deeply religious and had a profound commitment to the principles of Christianity and the rule of a Christian God.  The Ten Commandments are often noted as principles upon which this country was built.  The dollar and many USA coins say “In God We Trust.”   Unfortunately as with much of the erudition among our citizens, these beliefs do not mirror the conceptual foundation upon which the constitution was established nor the primary intentions of our Founding Fathers.

True, a substantial portion of the delegates to the 1787 Constitutional Convention were Christians but the leading Founders (Adams, Jefferson, Franklin, Wilson, Morris, Madison, Hamilton, and Washington) were not Christians but Deists.  One must remember that the foremost reason for our constitutional freedom of religious expression lay in the all too recent memories of many of the Founding Fathers regarding state sponsored religious oppression in Europe.  Thus the First Amendment:

Prohibits the making of any law respecting an establishment of religion, impeding the free exercise of religion, abridging the freedom of speech, infringing on the freedom of the press, interfering with the right to peaceably assemble or prohibiting the petitioning for a governmental redress of grievances.

It is true (as some have noted) that the Constitution does not call for a separation of church and state.  Nevertheless, there is no evidence that the Founders wanted a Christian state as opposed to a secular state.  By secular, I mean that their intentions were clearly to establish a nation wherein “Freedom of Religion” would be tolerated.  This means ALL religions and not just Christian religions.  Our dollars say “In God We Trust” not “In Jesus We Trust.”   The Old World was full of religious persecution.   Our Founding Fathers wanted to avoid the Religious Arrogance that had so dominated the Old World where Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Protestants, and many other sects all tried to eliminate each other.  “My God” is better than your god.  My religion is better than your religion.  My prophet is holier than your prophet.

“The supreme arrogance of religious thinking: That a carbon-based bag of mostly water on a speck of iron-silicate dust around a boring dwarf star in a minor galaxy in an underpopulated local group of galaxies in an unfashionable suburb of super cluster would look up at the sky and declare, it was all made so that I could exist!”Peter Walker

I suppose I should conclude this blog with some good advice on:  How to overcome “Religious Arrogance” or Ten steps towards becoming less of a militant Jihadist or How I personally overcame my desire to start a new Inquisition and learned to love everyone.  Alas, I doubt it would do any good.  Chances are those of you reading this are already among the “Tolerant.” Those who have not read it, would burn it, not heed any such advice or label it as the ranting of a Commie, Faggot, Intellectual, Atheist jerk doomed to hell.

Nothing is more fun than hating and despising those who don’t believe in the same things we do.  Those who fall in the category of the “Religious Arrogant” are well established in their beliefs and I doubt this blog or any number of blogs would have much impact on their thinking.  My advice (for what it is worth) is for those of you reading this to stand up and start speaking out against such arrogance and intolerance.   It is well said that when good people do nothing, say nothing and take no actions, then evil will surely triumph.  Add your voices to mine and let them be heard.  God Bless Everyone, No Exceptions. 

Time for Questions:

Why do religions persecute one another?  Did God say that one religion is superior to another?  Who decides who God is? What is wrong with believing in many Gods?  Do we anthropomorphize God?  Why should “My God” be any different than your God?

Life is just beginning.

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