Saturday, April 21, 2012

Getting into Shark-Infatuated Waters

Yes, the title is skewed—and intentionally so.  You see, there are many times when I wonder if well-meaning Christians really understand what they are saying.  Many times a sentence or phrase designed as a word to honor God will come out as a malapropism.  Consider the following sentence I overheard recently.
The greatest sacrifice is a contrite and broken spirit.
The Christian who shared this did so with honorable intent, trying to convey what King David understood in his prayer of repentance (Ps 51:17) and what YHWH told through Isaiah concerning himself (Is 57:15; 66:2).  The issue, then, is not the act of sacrifice nor the spiritual attitude of repentance but the superlative "greatest."

In normal English parlance, something is greatest when it exceeds all others in some measurable capacity.  That being the case, one might expect this descriptor to be assigned for a sacrifice like Solomon gave at the dedication of the temple (1 Ki 8:62-64) or to the widow who gave two copper coins (Mark 12:41-44).  Both gave comparatively abundant amounts out of their received blessings as they were able.

A contrite and broken spirit does not have this value.  That is akin to bragging about illustrious feats of humility.  We need to understand there is nothing to give, however great its worth.  No sacrifice, regardless of size or type, is sufficient to make amends for the guilt incurred.  All the repentant person can do is confess the sin and plead for mercy against whom the transgression has been committed, God himself, who has provided the necessary sacrifice for us—Jesus, who is fully God to meet the need and fully man to bear our sin and guilt.

What is great in Jesus' sacrifice is that it is sufficient for all.  We can do nothing to make up the lack for nothing is lacking.  His work on the cross deals with my sin and that daily I can return to the font of forgiveness according to the riches of God's grace.


Stephen Pohl said...

Now you've gone and sone it (wandered into shark infested waters),and must address Col 1:24-25 before all heaven breaks loose.

Steve Bricker said...

The Lord's suffering for atonement's sake is full and complete. Therefore the suffering Paul states in Colossians must be an extension of what he mentioned in Philippians—fellowship in Christ's suffering for the service of others.