We had finished dinner and were sitting at the table talking about a passage I had read from the Bible. It was a fairly bloody passage about the different kinds of sacrifices God had commanded the Hebrew people to offer.
So, I asked my kids, “What do you think about all of this blood? All of this killing of animals?”
They had some thoughtful answers about sin deserving death and Jesus offering the ultimate sacrifice on our behalf. None of them quoted it, but I could hear Romans 6:23 echoed in their words: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Then someone said, “It’s not so much that sin deserves death as sin causes death.”
That triggered my imagination.
All those bloody carcasses piling up beside the altar. All the blood splattered on the priest’s clothing and dripping down his arms. For someone raised with excellent stories about talking animals — Charlotte’s Web, The Wind in the Willows, The Chronicles of Narnia — the thought of all that animal carnage is, well, unthinkable.
But I had always thought of myself as deserving to be in that pile of the dead. The wages of sin is death, right? But that comment was sending me in a new direction.
I am the one leaving a bloody swath behind me. My words, my actions, my attitudes, my indifference to the plight of others — all of this is dealing death to the left and to the right.
I am the killer. I am the destroyer. My sin is relational terrorism. My cutting words, well, they cut people and they bleed because of them.
This is what I’m doing. Right now. To others.
And in a weird way, it makes me wish that we hadn’t stopped killing animals as sacrifices. It makes me wish for a very tangible expression of what I’m doing to others through my self-as-king approach to life.
But we do have a tangible expression in communion, the eucharist, the Lord’s table. It’s a a much-changed symbol from slain lambs. It blends the image of a corpse and blood (“This is by body, broken for you. This is my blood, shed for you.”) with the image of a meal. Death becomes life. Jesus doesn’t just die for us, he feeds us.
Love not only forgives, it reconciles. It brings new life. God is about resurrection.
Just as those dead animals represented what we deserved and our need for forgiveness from God, they also represented what we do to others and our need to be reconciled with them as well. Not just one of these, but both at the same time.
This is why the gospel isn’t just about forgiveness of sins. It is about restoration, reconciliation, redemption — putting things back together again not just between us and God, but between us and us.
[See A wider view of the fall leads to a deeper engagement in mission for a more in-depth biblical exploration on this theme.]