This is My Body Given For You (Kind of)

This Good Friday I would like to offer some thoughts and a challenge to you about the death of Christ.

The typical Christian thought of Christ’s Passion is that it was something done “for us.”

And that is the foundation of Christianity: that Christ was given sacrificially over to death so as to atone for the sins of humanity and bridge the divide between God and man.

It was in that sacrificial act that God moved decisively in history and did something “for us.”

We didn’t reach this conclusion by happenstance, for Jesus himself asserted that he was giving his broken body for each one of us.

In fact, we can still hear the echo of Jesus’ pronouncement during his final meal just moments before he would be arrested, beaten, and crucified, “This is my body, given for you.”

So while we, as Christians, have been on solid footing in our understanding that the death of Christ was something done on our behalf, I would propose that the pronouncement of Jesus is something more than any of us have ever imagined- not just something done “for us,” but also as something being done through us by God as well.

“This my body, given for you,” is not simply a statement continually reminding us of who Jesus was and what he did.  It is also a declaration of what his Body (the Church) will continue to do.

And the implications of this larger understanding have the potential to breathe fresh life into the Church, but more importantly- to change the world.

It is a step forward from a position of being perpetual recipients and into a position of being recipients and then extenders.

This is captured nicely in the parable of the servants.

Three servants were each given something.

Two of the servants extended what they had been given.

One servant held onto what was generously given and extended nothing.

It was this foolish servant who was reprimanded for not extending what had been given.

The lesson for each of us is: what we have been freely given… we ought to freely extend.

As Christ’s body was given for us… we have become his Body in order to give ourselves for others.

As was the pattern and shape of Christ being broken and poured out for us, so we become the Body of Christ by allowing ourselves to be broken open and our blood poured out for the world.

And becoming his Body means that we take on the exact pattern and shape of his life, with a willingness and determination to even go to our death in order to demonstrate God’s radical love.

But doing this confronts every way we have fought against truly being his body, broken for the world.

Christ’s body would not stand up and fight… his body would lie down in surrender.

Christ’s body would not break people down… his body would allow itself to be broken for the world.

Christ’s body would not seek to be exalted… his body would be ridiculed among the sinners.

Christ’s body would not be self-righteous… his body would be meek and humble.

Christ’s body would not be accusing or condemning… his body would be gentle and empathetic.

Christ’s body would not be legislating morality… his body would be teaching and demonstrating a higher way and extending grace.

Christ’s body would not be shunning sinners… his body would be washing their feet.

Christ’s body would not be casting people aside… his body would be joining them where they are at.

Christ’s body would not be pronouncing judgment… his body would be defending the cause of the weak, the poor, and the oppressed.

Christ’s body would not be casting stones… his body would be making peace.

Christ’s body would not be sitting at the exclusive table for the religious… his body would be sitting among the outcasts and sinners.

Christ’s body would not be despising and hating… his body would be loving.

In the same way that Christ embodied the beauty, richness, and fullness of God’s generous mercy, forgiveness, love, and grace by becoming the least of these… so ought his Body on earth right now.

But the truth is that we are all too eager to unconditionally receive God’s love, grace, forgiveness, mercy, and all-consuming love… but painfully conditional or absent in extending it.

But guess what?

It’s not ours to give.  It’s God’s.

And we have been generously entrusted with what God has given us so as to further extend it.

God’s full expression was on display in the body of Jesus Christ… and nothing short of that ought to be on display through the Body of Christ in the world today.

What we have been lavished in and showered with… flows freely.

And that’s where real Life is found- giving ourselves, our lives, our bodies for others.

While it is true that we, as Christians, would rather die than to ever stop living in God’s all-consuming, enveloping, and overwhelming love.

It can not stop there.

This all-consuming, enveloping, and overwhelming love is not simply meant to be received.

It is meant to be given as well.

And here is what that means.

It means that we would rather die than to ever stop giving that kind of all-consuming, enveloping, and overwhelming love.

Again, what is received… is meant to be given.

On this Good Friday as we join our Savior at his table… let us join him in his proclamation to all of the world, “This is my body, given for you.”

Peace…

Brandon

GUEST POST: Pro-life like Jesus by Kaila Coon

I am a Christian, and I am emphatically and unapologetically pro-life.

Reading that statement, I know half of you are amped and uttering ‘amen’ to your computer screen, while the other half of you are beginning to work yourselves into an indignant furry.  But give me a second, because my idea of pro-life might not quite jive with your preconceptions of the term.

I just had a baby a couple months ago, and the whole process of pregnancy and birth was absolutely amazing.  So, when I say ‘pro-life,’ I do mean that it is important to protect and cherish the unborn. But that’s not all I mean.

As it turns out, life goes on after birth.  Crazy right?  But its true.  And being pro-life means valuing that life for its entire duration, not just for the nine months it spends in utero.

To me, being pro-life means valuing and protecting all lives at all times.

To me, being pro-life means being a peace-lover and a pacifist.

But ‘pacifist,’ like ‘pro-life,’ is another one of those tricky words.  What does it really mean to be a Christian pacifist?

Let me begin by telling you what it doesn’t mean.

Pacifism is not the act of being passive.

It is not letting evil do whatever it wants to whom ever it wants.  It is not abandoning the weak, helpless or vulnerable in the face of oppression.  Nor is it a way to avoid serving one’s country, protecting one’s neighbors, or even giving one’s life for a greater cause.

Pacifism is not passive.  But is does require that we find creative and non-violent ways to engage.

Rather than joining the infantry, we can serve as doctors, nurses, chaplains, and mental health workers.  Rather than using violent means to defend the defenseless, we can demonstrate, fundraise, sit in, or use economic sanctions and incentives.  The possibilities for non-violent engagement are as limitless as our imaginations.

Now, before I explain what it is, let me tell you why it is.

I am a pacifist because of Jesus.

Because he valued every life he encountered – women, lepers, tax collectors and religious leaders alike.

Because his ministry was one of healing and restoration, not destruction and violence.

Because he taught his followers to turn the other cheek instead of taking an eye for an eye.

Because he modeled seeking a third way between the passive resignation of the pharisees and the religious violence of the zealots.

Because he left not room in his speech or actions for violence, and he didn’t tolerate it in his followers either (remember how he healed the soldier’s ear and rebuked Peter for cutting it off?).

I am a pacifist because Jesus taught us to love our neighbor and to love our enemy.  He called love the greatest command and even summarized all of scripture as an imperative to love God and love humanity.

I am a pacifist because we are called to live and love like him.

And I don’t believe we show love when we practice violence against our fellowmen.

So what is this art of Christian pacifism?

It is, of course, the refusal to wield weapons or to kill.

But it is also much more than that!  It is a forsaking of all violence in all its forms.  It is a refusal to cause physical harm and a refusal to participate social, cultural, psychological, emotional and relational violence.

But pacifism is not simply a rejection of violence either, it is also proactive.

In place of violence, we are to participate with God in the restoration of all creation.  We are to stand up for the oppressed and marginalized in creative and non-violent ways.  We are to seek and create peace wherever we go.  Peace in our world, in our country, in our communities, our churches, our relationships, and peace in our own souls.  And how do we make peace?  By practicing love for our neighbors and our enemies alike, just as Jesus commanded us to.

And what is love?

Love is patient, love is kind, it does not envy or brag, it is not arrogant or rude.  It does not insist on its own way, nor is it irritable or resentful.  It does not delight in wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.  It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things.  Love never ends.

So you see, to be a pacifist is to be pro-life in the fullest sense of the word.

It is to protect lives by refusing to inflict physical, psychological or emotional harm, but it also to promote true and full life by modeling peace and love even when it is incredibly difficult to do so.

It is much harder to be pro-life than it is to be anti-war, but it is my calling as a daughter of Yahweh.  Each day I ask myself what I can help restore, where I can bring peace.  Many days I fail to love like Jesus, and many days I do employ various forms of violence against the people and the world around me.  But every morning God graciously offers a new start and calls us once again to live and love like him.

Kaila Coon is a writer and a student of the Hebrew Bible.  She completed her M.A. in Biblical Studies with a concentration in Old Testament at Denver Seminary in May of 2012 and earned her Bachelor’s degree in Biological Sciences with a minor in Religious Studies from the University of Denver.  You can read more of her writing at Old Testament 101.