Why didn’t God just throw Jesus off a cliff or something? Tim Keller asks this question in his audio series, King’s Cross. He’s addressing the question, why did Jesus have to die, and have to die so violently. It’s a great question! I mean if God is God, you’d think he’d have a better plan than humiliation, torture, and a slow, agonizing death on a cross.
Yet, Jesus said, “I must suffer and die.” He didn’t say I’m going to die, or I will die. He said, “I must die.” Why?
In his book, King’s Cross, Keller discusses the suffering involved when someone forgives. He uses an example of a lamp. A friend accidentally knocks your lamp over. The friend who broke the lamp will suffer financially to repay for the loss. Or you, the lamp owner, could forgive your friend. Whether it was an accident, silliness, or spitefulness, you will suffer the expense, or live in a room with a little less light – either way you suffer (less money, or less light).
True forgiveness always causes suffering. The alternative is revenge. You could break something of theirs (a lamp perhaps). Or just carry a resentment indefinitely. Or force them to pay you back. Now we’re in the realm of anger, spite, resentment – or what some might call, evil.
Forgiveness, even on a small scale is hard. Why is it so hard? We don’t like to suffer! We spend an inordinate amount of time trying to avoid suffering. Moreover, Keller writes:
Instead of making the other person suffer, you’re absorbing the cost yourself. You aren’t trying to get your reputation back by tearing the other person down [idiot broke my lamp]. You are forgiving them and it is costing you. That’s what forgiveness is. True forgiveness always entails suffering.
Keller goes on say that the only way of righting the wrong is suffering. Someone has to absorb the debt. All other methods perpetuate retaliation, retaliation, retaliation.
So, God had a choice. Retaliate. Or forgive. When we do something wrong – whether in thought or deed, there’s a cost – whether we realize it or not. The God that Jesus showed us said, “I love you. I will absorb the cost. I will make things right.”
Thanks for reading,
~ Ted Olson
Tim Keller On God’s Forgiveness