Punished For Us?

kill my son

I previously wrote on the topic of punishment in The Abolition of Sacrifice (particularly as it relates to sacrifice as hinted by the title). There turned out to be a bunch of people who gave me feedback that didn’t like it.

One concern was my claim that the cross was an accident (i.e. that it was humanity that murdered Jesus and that God did not cause it or bring it about, and yet that God brought about good through the evil plotted by people). This issue was addressed in an exchange in the comments section of that post.

Another concern was that by rejecting the notion that God is required to punish sinners and that the cross was not necessary for God to be able to forgive sinners, I was undermining God’s justice. (Let me repeat the clarification I made in What I Am Not Saying; Although I believe that the cross was unnecessary for God to be able to forgive us, I do maintain that it was necessary for our salvation.) In The Union of Justice and Mercy I explained how the scriptures describe justice as restorative, not retributive, and how mercy and justice are not in conflict with each other but rather are one and the same.

Something at the heart of this issue that I have not yet addressed is the penal substitutionary theory of atonement. This is the idea that Jesus took the just punishment we deserved as our substitute to save us from God’s wrath.

In this post I will deconstruct this idea and explain why I have become convinced of what I consider to be a much better and accurate conception of who God is.

My Experience with Believing Penal Substitution

I grew up being taught penal substitution. I was never told that alternatives existed, so I thought that it was the only possible and correct interpretation of the scriptures. Consequently, I read bibles through my interpretive lens of penal substitution. It wasn’t hard to find verses that seemed to support the beliefs I already held.

(Let me point out that just because we see the language used in penal substitution also used in the scriptures doesn’t mean that the scriptures are endorsing that way of thinking. There are plenty of false ideas that people invent that are formulated using biblical language but do not accurately reflect the truth.)

I also preached penal substitution when I shared with others what I considered to be the gospel. Yet I distinctly remember a sense of uneasiness whenever I did, because I could sense an uneasiness in the hearers. Really, who wants to get acquainted with an angry God, even if his wrath had been “satisfied”?

Of course, by no means does that automatically disqualify the theory. It did, however, plant the first seeds of doubt in me.

The Unreasonability of Penal Substitution

In college I started to question my long held belief.

Where in the scriptures does it say that God is required by his nature to punish sinners? Nowhere does it say that God is constrained by retributive justice. To the contrary, God says that he will have mercy and compassion on whoever he wants to (Romans 9:15).

Or where in the scriptures is it expressed that we all deserve to be punished by God? It is clear that punishment comes with sin, but only as a natural consequence, not something God inflicts.

If Jesus “paid the penalty for sin,” then it seems that God isn’t forgiving at all. If I pay off my student loans in full, did the loaning institution forgive my debt? Nope. Since I paid it all off, there is nothing left to forgive. On the other hand, Jesus taught unconditional forgiveness, regardless of what was “deserved.” Is God telling us to act more forgivingly than he himself does?

Jesus’ suffering was only temporary and finite. But if the punishment we deserve for sin is eternal suffering, then Jesus didn’t pay the full price.

Penal substitution pits the Father against Jesus in what looks like a schizophrenic deity. Our greatest ally is Jesus, and our greatest enemy is not the devil, but God and the wrath he brings against us. It makes God the author of death, dealing it out to sinful humanity because they deserve it according to his justice. Jesus bearing the cross brings not us but God to repentance, changing his mind about how he will treat us.

Sacrifices are made by an individual or a group to a different individual or group; it is nonsensical for someone to sacrifice something to themselves, because that is not a sacrifice at all, merely a killing of something.

Ironically, the picture of God as a retributively just judge dealing out punishment does not do justice to the biblical picture of what justice is. As the early church fathers emphasize, there was nothing just about the crucifixion of Jesus. God has zero interest in hurting people, no matter how much of a “right” he might have to do so. All he wants is reconciliation.

Other objections to penal substitution exist, but just because there are questions which we perhaps cannot find satisfactory answers to doesn’t disqualify a theory either. So I dug deeper.

Alternative Theories of the Atonement

Half way through my college years I came across a number of different understandings of the atonement for the first time in my life. (I won’t explain any of them in depth, but you can get a pretty good overview of them on Wikipedia.)

Christus Victor is a model in which Christ’s death is the means by which the powers of evil that held humanity in their grip were defeated. The moral influence model teaches that Jesus came to bring positive moral change to humanity. In the recapitulation model humanity is recreated by Christ becoming what we are so that we can become what he is.

Biblical justification can be given for each view with verses that, at least prema facie, seem to support them. The same is true of the penal substitution model. So there are various interpretations of the atonement, none of them are necessarily mutually exclusive, and it is difficult to quickly rule any of them out.

I decided I needed to go even further down the rabbit hole and take a look at the history of the idea of penal substitution as well as of the other theories of the atonement.

The Lack of Historicity

I won’t take an in depth look at the writings of the early church fathers here but only mention themes that were prevalent as well as lacking overall. (If you would like an in depth analysis of the writings of the early church fathers as they relate to penal substitution, I recommend Substitutionary Atonement and the Church Fathers and The Abolishment of Retribution in the Church Fathers).

Prevalent themes include healing, restoration, recreation, freedom, substitution, and the destruction of the curse and death. Lacking themes include appeasing a wrathful God and the need for punishment by God.

The problem that the atonement addresses is never presented by the early church fathers as an angry God but a sick and dying humanity.

I like how the Wikipedia article on penal substitution put it: “In scholarly literature it has been generally recognized for some time that the penal substitution theory was not taught in the Early Church” (and then gives 8 references, which is a lot for Wikipedia lol…they must pretty sure about this one). Incidentally, the three alternative views I mentioned above can be found in the writings of the early church fathers.

Let me clarify one particular element of the atonement, because many of us have only ever known one way of thinking about Christ being our substitute, and that is to view him as substitutionally taking our punishment.

The theme of substitution is frequently seen in the writings of the early church fathers and is clear within the scriptures as well. The question that must be asked, however, is how was Christ’s death substitutionary?

When the early church fathers spoke of substitution, they didn’t mean Jesus took our punishment from God (although some said that Jesus took our punishment that sin brings with it through natural consequence). They meant that Jesus became the substitute for all humanity on the cross, taking our curse, sin, corruption, condemnation, death, etc. upon himself in order to destroy them.

Even those who are popularly cited as proponents of penal substitution, such as Augustine (354-430), Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109), and Aquinas (1225-1274), deny the idea of condemning the innocent to free the guilty that is central to penal substitution. They did develop their own theories of the atonement that departed from what was taught before them, but even in their own theories they did not teach penal substitution.

Penal substitution as we know it today did not arise until the time of John Calvin (1509-1564). Did Calvin uncover a truth that had been missed by all who had gone before him? Methinks not.

(Some might claim that Calvin only reached a destination on the trajectory of progressive revelation that was set by those who had gone before him (like Calvinists tend to do for other doctrines developed by Calvin such as predestination and limited atonement). In other words, that penal substitution is simply a development in theology. I disagree, but that’s a whole nutha topic that I don’t want to get into here.)

Concluding Thoughts

The lack of historicity of the doctrine of penal substitution pretty much settled the issue for me. I can’t view penal substitution as anything other than a human invention that emerged hundreds of years after Jesus’ time. (I’ve also considered the issue from a biblical perspective and have found it to be wanting.)

There are, of course, plenty of arguments in favor of penal substitution. This has been a topic of hot debate for centuries, and I am aware that this post does not conclusively put the theory to sleep. I wrote this post for those who, like myself previously, don’t know that there are good reasons to doubt penal substitution and that viable alternatives exist.

What I’ve written above is highly intellectual and analytical, but taking a step back from all that, I want to take a moment to point out that, if what I am claiming is true, it’s really good news! It makes the gospel a message of a ridiculously forgiving God. He forgives people even before they ask, never requiring anything from them for or in return for his forgiveness. Wow! That’s forgiveness like the world has never known.

Some people might say that I am making God out to be a big fluffy marshmallow. I would have to agree. I would add that the marshmallow is perfectly roasted and is sandwiched between chocolate and biscuits. God is way better than any of us can imagine, and his goodness cannot be exaggerated.

*****

Also see:

The Penal Substitution Atonement – Greg Boyd
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dOE3hWRWrqc

Punished “for” or “by” our sins – The Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53 – Santo Calarco
http://www.clarion-journal.com/clarion_journal_of_spirit/2013/10/punished-for-or-by-our-sins-the-suffering-servant-of-isaiah-53-santo-calarco.html

Penal substitutionary atonement – Steve McVey
http://gracewalkministries.blogspot.com/2011/06/was-what-i-taught-in-australia-biblical.html

Sin and punishment – Steve McVey
http://gracewalkministries.blogspot.com/2010/07/sin-and-punishment.html

An illustrative story about punishment – Steve McVey
http://gracewalkministries.blogspot.jp/2013/05/rethinking-what-weve-believed.html

Propitiation for sin – Steve McVey
http://gracewalkministries.blogspot.jp/2010/11/propitiation-for-sin.html

The Abolition of Sacrifice

grumpy

Some people view sacrifice as an inherently good thing because God instituted animal sacrifices in the Law or because of the sacrificial death of Jesus. The general concept is carried over into the New Covenant by claiming that we are to live sacrificial lives for God, giving up the things of this world for the things of God (Romans 12:1 is cited often to make this point).

Methinks this is a misconception.

Let’s take a look at the role of sacrifice in human history.

The concepts of sacrifice (or scapegoating) existed in every known culture and society. A historical study (see the works of René Girard) reveals that there were generally two reasons why communities practiced sacrifice – because the gods required it and to keep social order. People viewed sacrifice as necessary because otherwise the gods would unleash their anger on them, and also because it was an outlet for their (the people’s) violence. People didn’t know how to deal with their anger and frustration, so they decided to systematically take it out on something else. Thus, social order is maintained because instead of civil war breaking out, one person (the scapegoat) died for the rest. This mindset can even be seen in the scriptures, where the high priest Caiaphas advises the Pharisees that it is better for one man to die for the people (referring to Jesus) than for the whole nation to be destroyed (John 11:50). Of course, this never gets to the root problem, which is losing sight of who God really is, and thus losing sight of every person’s true desire, which is God himself (Haggai 2:7). Sacrifice emerged from not understanding God’s heart toward people.

The question, then, is why did God command animal sacrifices to be performed under the Law?

The Israelites wanted to be like the nations around them. They wanted laws, not relationship. They wanted human kings, not a heavenly Father. And they wanted sacrificial systems, not unmerited forgiveness. They couldn’t conceive of any other way of dealing with guilt and violence, and, in their minds, that was the only way to satisfy their angry God, Jehovah. But God isn’t like every other ancient god that required sacrifice in order to be nice to people.The truth, the mystery that had been kept hidden for ages, was that God was never angry with them and had forgiven them even before they had asked to be forgiven!

God never wanted our sacrifices, even under the Old Covenant. “Sacrifice and meal offering You have not desired…Burnt offering and sin offering You have not required” (Psalm 40:6). “For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; And the knowledge of God, more than burnt offering” (Hosea 6:6). (Also see Micah 6:6-8, Isaiah 1:11-14, and Jeremiah 7:21-23.)

morphiusGod instituted the Old Covenant sacrificial system for people, not for himself. It is no different than how Jesus explained that “the Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.” Its introduction in the Law wasn’t to alleviate God’s anger or satisfy a need to punish sin, both of which God has no need for. Rather, it was a concession to man’s guilt and bloodlust (in fact, the entire system of Law was a concession to Israel since it refused to relate intimately with God; see Exodus 20:18-21). Sacrifice under the Old Covenant was to provide an outlet for human violence and to fulfill the human need to feel free of guilt and have a clear conscience (although according to Hebrews 10:4 it never permanently fixed anything – “For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.”).

God never wanted to use violence, but mankind did; so God worked within mankind’s violence to achieve His purposes, and to slowly wean His people off of the need for blood punishment. – Christian Erickson

This is why even though the Law contained retributive ordinances with concepts such as equal retaliation (someone who causes harm is repaid with the same harm to themselves), Jesus pointed to a better way. “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also” (Matthew 5:38-39). Indeed, Jesus demonstrated this principle himself as he did not retaliate against his accusers and executioners.

The Law is good (Romans 7:12), but it is not good in the sense that it would be good for us to try and follow it. It is good because it served its purpose, which was to reveal our sinfulness and bring us to our senses (Romans 7:7). When we try our best to follow the Law, we find that our efforts are futile. Thus God administrates his grace to us through the Law because it reveals our need for a savior. God imposed an impossibility on us to make evident the insufficiency of our independent selves (which is only an illusion, because we are never separated from God). It sheds light on the fundamental error made at the fall – thinking that we could do life alone if only we had the knowledge of good and evil.

Thus, just because something is in the Law doesn’t automatically make it good. Sacrifice is a case in point.

The cross didn’t deal with God’s sin consciousness, as if he was hindered from relating with us because of sin. It dealt with our sin consciousness (Hebrews 10:1-3). It doesn’t free God from a need to punish; it frees us from a guilty conscience.

The cross reveals that even when humanity is at its worst, united against God to murder him, God’s love for humanity and how he relates to them does not change. Even when God seems most justified in violently retaliating against humanity (and had the power to do so), he chooses not to. The heart of the Father is revealed.

The cross unmasks the practice of sacrifice (and more generally the concept of retributive punishment) for what it is and rescues humanity from its insanity.

It is simply human violence.

Let me get back to how this relates to sacrifice in our New Covenant lives.

God doesn’t want sacrifice unless he’s providing the sacrifice (think Abraham and Isaac). But from our perspective this isn’t sacrifice at all! Jesus meant it when he said it is more blessed (happy) to give than to receive (Acts 20:35), and he applies it in his dealings with us. God’s not looking for us to do something for him; God derives the greatest pleasure from continually providing for us all that we need. He doesn’t need our help. His joy is rooted in our enjoyment of his provision, not our provision for his non-existent needs.

Missionary to China Hudson Taylor, at the end of a life full of suffering and trial, said, “I never made a sacrifice.” When the motivating factor of service to Christ is love, it doesn’t feel like you’re working at all. It is effortless. There is no sacrifice.

And that’s just the kind of life that Jesus has made available to all.

*****

Also see:

Glimpses Into a Mystery (Andre Rabe)
http://hearhim.net/wordpress/2012/12/27/glimpses-into-a-mystery/

The Union of Justice and Mercy

Many people talk about God as though he may be merciful but must be just. In other words, God cannot show mercy until justice is served. Mercy is optional, but justice is necessary.

God has to be just, they maintain, but he does not have to be merciful. He has to punish unforgiven sin, but he does not have to forgive sin. This is a common view among theologians, but it ought to be seen as problematic for a Christian view of God. To subordinate divine love to divine justice so that God has to be just but does not have to love is odd for a Christian who confesses that God is love. – Robin Parry

Further, justice is commonly understood as “getting what you deserve” and is thus seen as being opposed to mercy, which is commonly understood to be “not getting what you deserve.”

This is silly at best. If God requires that justice (in the above sense) be served before he can show mercy, then he’s not merciful at all. If justice has already been fulfilled, then since there is nothing left that is “deserved” it’s impossible to be merciful (i.e. stopping someone from getting what they deserve).

justiceJust what decides “what you deserve” anyways? Does God possess some divine formula for calculating how much punishment to deal out in accordance to people’s bad behavior? Actually, there is something like a punishment formula in the scriptures that matches certain crimes with certain punishments – the Law. The Law does not apply to us, however, since Jesus fulfilled it once and for all.

God does not have some judicial constraint inherent in his nature that forces him to punish sin. God is free; he does what he wants. He moves according to the desires of his heart, not according to some moral standard that bounds him.

Further, God’s justice and mercy are not in opposition to one another; they are in union with one another. As George MacDonald put it, “I believe that justice and mercy are simply one and the same thing.” Justice and mercy are two sides of the same coin. When God shows mercy, He is showing justice. When God shows justice, He is showing mercy. (This is arguably true of all God’s characteristics; this idea is called divine simplicity.)

And where is the biblical warrant, I would ask, for the popular idea that mercy and justice are separate and distinct attributes of God? Where does the Bible even hint that God’s mercy permits something that his justice does not, or that his justice demands something that his mercy does not? Christians sometimes picture God, I fear, almost as if he were a schizophrenic whose justice pushes him in one direction and whose mercy pushes him in another. – Thomas Talbott

The biblical description of justice is not punishment for wrongdoing. In fact, Jesus rejected this retaliatory understanding of justice: “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two” (Matthew 5:38-41). A few verses later Jesus explains the reason why we should think this way: “you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (v. 48).

If God’s justice is not retributive, then what is it? According to scriptures it is restoration of what has been stolen, redemption of what has been lost, and reconciliation of what has been broken. It means “to set things right.” Justice is described as showing grace and mercy and compassion to one another. True justice is to set captives free.

No, divine justice does not require payback. To think so is to superimpose our own flawed human sense of justice onto the mind and heart of God. Divine justice is very different. A biblical study of what it means to “bring justice” does not mean to bring retribution at all, but rather to bring healing and reconciliation. Justice means to make things right. All through the prophetic bible passages, justice is associated with caring for others, as something that is not in conflict with mercy, but rather an expression of it. Biblically, justice is God’s saving action at work for all that are oppressed. – Steve McVey

Check out these verses:

“He executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and shows His love for the alien by giving him food and clothing” (Deuteronomy 10:18).

“Who executes justice for the oppressed; Who gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets the prisoners free” (Psalm 146:7).

“This is what the LORD says: ‘Administer justice every morning; rescue from the hand of his oppressor the one who has been robbed'” (Jeremiah 21:12).

“This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘Administer true justice: show mercy and compassion to one another'” (Zechariah 7:9).

“Learn to do good; Seek justice, Reprove the ruthless, Defend the orphan, Plead for the widow” (Isaiah 1:17).

“Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion. For the LORD is a God of justice” (Isaiah 30:18).

Man’s definition of justice (the justice of law) is that when a man murders another man, the murderer gets punished. God’s definition of justice (the justice of grace) is that when a man murders another man, God resurrects the murdered man and brings healing, forgiveness, restoration, and reconciliation of relationship to the two men. – Christian Erickson

There’s a reason that, unlike the Old Testament, justice is scarcely mentioned in the New Testament – justice has been servedEverything has been made right through Jesus’ finished work of the cross.

Reinterpreting the Curse and the Fall

If you’ve grown up being taught from bibles, then you were probably told the story of “the fall” in which once upon a time there were Adam and Eve, they did a naughty thing, and God decided to punish them with “the curse”. Assumed in this kind of interpretation are concepts such as God not being able to stand sin, the retributive theory of punishment (that God punishes not because it is remedial but because it is just to do so, and thus that by his own nature he is required to inflict punishment in order to serve justice), and that the story is a literal historical account.

In this post I consider two alternative understandings of this story that have benefitted me.

One way is to continue to read the story literally but reinterpret what took place relationally between God and humanity.

Adam and EveFirst of all, it is not the case that God can’t stand sin (see this myth dispelled here). It was Adam and Eve who chose to hide from God, not God from them (3:8). As Paul explains, “Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior” (Colossians 1:20, emphasis mine). God never distanced himself from humanity. Rather, people made up their own ideas about what God is like, thereby distancing themselves from him (albeit only in their minds).

Second, the warning God gave to Adam and Eve to not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was not a threat but a warning of what they will experience. God said “you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die” (2:18). Notice God didn’t say that he would curse or kill them but instead simply said they would die. In other words, God did not threaten to punish them but instead explained the natural consequence of sin.

Further, the curse was not punishment for sin but simply a natural consequence of their behavior. After they eat the fruit God says “because you have done this, you are cursed…” to the serpent (3:14) and “the ground is cursed because of you” to Adam (3:17). They caused what happened to themselves; God didn’t need to do anything. As Paul explains, “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23a). Notice that God is not in that part of the verse? He only shows up in the second half: “but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23b). It is only natural that when a person sows in sin they reap death. God doesn’t need to inflict divine punishment for that to happen. It was simply a result of eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

Another way to approach the Genesis account is to interpret it non-literally. One such interpretation as explained by Robert Capon is to take it “…as the story of your, and my, and everybody’s encounter with that same world in our own lives.” Specifically, we all face the temptation to choose the knowledge of good and evil (which is representative of the Law) over life (which is representative of Jesus).

This meshes well with the reinterpretation above. Within this interpretation, the negative effects of the “curse” are a natural result of certain kinds of decisions, acts, and mindsets, the root of which is identified as legalism. Consequences befall every person when they make choices such as Adam and Eve did, not because there is an ontological “curse” inherent within the world that makes things this way but because that’s how the world operates.

Incidentally, “the curse” as referring to the sin of Adam and Eve is not a biblical term, and I contend that it is not a biblical concept either. The only objective curse mentioned is “the curse of the Law,” and Jesus became that curse and destroyed it on the cross (Galatians 3:13). Under this interpretation, it makes sense why the Law would be considered a curse – it is the ultimate end of partaking of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

*****

Also see:

http://gracewalkministries.blogspot.com/2013/01/a-parable-about-fathers.html

A Militant God? – If You’re Owned, You’re “Pwned”

russian-troops-surrender

What does a wrestler do when he’s placed in a painful and inescapable position?

What does an army do when it is completely surrounded and outnumbered?

And what do you do when God tells you that he’s madly in love you?

Surrender.

Surrender?

Well, that’s what a lot of believers say. Kind of strange, no? Think about it.

Has anyone ever responded with an “I surrender” when you told them that you love them? If someone did that to me, I would think that that person is thinking that I want to control them or something. lol.

Surrender communicates fear. At least the way it is normally used does. Wrestlers surrender to escape pain. Armies surrender to they don’t get slaughtered.

And it does so even when Christians use it. It makes it sound like God’s ultimate goal is obedience, and if he’s not obeyed that there will be punishment. In other words, he wants control over you, and he will use fear to get it.

But God’s not like that. At all.

First, obedience has its place. But God desires his children to move beyond merely being obedient slaves to being friends who know his heart. Jesus communicated this to his disciples the night before he was crucified (John 15:15).

Second, Jesus took care of any and every need for us to fear or be punished on the cross (1 John 4:18).

Third, God is not a cosmic control freak. That’s why he created us free, even to the point of allowing us to reject him if we so choose. There can be no love without the freedom to choose whether to love.

God is not militant; he is benevolent.

He’s not trying to get you to surrender to his every bidding. He simply wants you to know the depths of his love for you, and he knows the rest will naturally follow out of knowing that love.

Surrender is a poor word to describe our relationship with Christ. It expresses a sense of being obedient although, really, we don’t want to. There’s a word for “following Jesus” only out of a fear of damnation: religion. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (Proverbs 1:7), but it is not the end of it. You can only truly get to know Jesus by love. We fear him as a foundation to fall back on when all else fails, but ultimately we are not able to live a fruitful life or have a healthy relationship without love being our motivating factor.

If you think that doing what God tells you to do is no fun, I have some good news to share with you: “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3).

Let me switch to a related topic.

Have you ever told God, ”I give you everything. I give you all of me”?

If you haven’t, you’re probably not a disciple of Jesus (not that you have to say those exact words, but the idea within it).

If you have, have you told him that more than once? If so, I question why you are re-giving him everything. Did you take it back from him after you gave it? I encourage you to not do that. It’s just not a very nice thing to do.

Instead, recognize that you already belong to God (1 Corinthians 3:23), you were bought with a price (1 Corinthians 6:20), and everything you have came from God as a gift (1 Corinthians 4:7).

Us belonging to God doesn’t mean he uses us the way we use our belongings like pens, clothes, or computers. We belong to God and God belongs to us the way a husband and wife belong to each other; we are his bride. It is a mutual belonging of love.

It’s not about giving yourself to God (as if he needed anything from our side). It’s about realizing that we belonged to him all along, even before we acknowledged it.

When you believed Jesus and became part of the Church you acknowledged that you indeed do belong to Jesus.

Here’s what I wish to point out: possession implies surrender.

If you acknowledge that you belong to God, then you’re already “surrendered” to him. You “surrendered” when you realized your need for a savior and came to Jesus.

Practically, this means that you have believed that God’s ways are a lot more fun and joyous than what the world has to offer. Thus, when God tells you to do something, you cheerfully do so, not because you are “surrendered” to him or because it’s your “duty,” but simply because you know that that’s the most fun and most joyful thing you can do. And if God’s goodpleasing, and perfect will doesn’t seem so fun or joyous to you, then your mind is not renewed in that area (Romans 12:2). If you come across something like this, all you have to do is ask Jesus why it’s so great and I bet he will tell you. Even if he doesn’t right then, if you truly believe he loves you and has your best interest in mind, then he can be trusted.

If “surrender” is to have a place in a believer’s vocabulary, it should be to describe the sweet surrender of giving up on your own efforts to try to please God and live upright and instead trusting in what Jesus did and does in and through you.

So I commend to you “Sweet Surrender” by Bread. These guys have it down :] (lyrics below video)

Baby I’m through runnin’ it’s true
I’d be a fool to try to escape you
Maybe I’m beat but oh what a sweet surrender
You keep your rights, I’ll take your nights
No one can lose when we turn the lights out
Tastin’ defeat, lovin’ that sweet surrender
I’m giving’ up myself to you but I didn’t really lose at all
I gave the only love I’ve known and it never hurt me to fall
Now that it’s done, so glad you won
I know our lives have only begun now
No more retreat, only y sweet surrender