When an eleven-year-old boy asks me theological questions, I get suspicious. Circumstantial evidence told me this particular kid was only trying to get out of singing slightly catchy but incredibly annoying VBS songs in the next room. (Exhibit A: the suspect had spent most of lesson time clocking another kid in the head with an inflatable taxi.)
Fortunately for him, I also hated those songs. Bring it on, kid.
He started out with questions related to the lesson—the Good Samaritan—but then moved on to things like why there was suffering in the world and how we knew the Bible was true.
Kid had been saving up. I liked him considerably more than earlier in the morning when he’d thrown glitter in my hair during craft time.
He nodded through my explanations, sometimes looking like he got it, and sometimes looking like I’d just started explaining trigonometry in Elvish. But he kept asking questions, finally getting to this one: “Why do Christians think Jesus have to die? It doesn’t seem fair. Why couldn’t God just have forgiven our sins without the cross?”
Okay, kid. That’s a good one. You’re thinking these things through with Gungor and The Shack and a bunch of others.
This is way past my pay grade (since, you know, I’m not getting paid), but here we go anyway.
It’s the basic plot of lots of mysteries and thrillers, right? Someone who cares about the real criminal—a spouse or parent or lover—tries to take the blame for the crime. The detective finds out about the noble gesture…and the guilty person is punished and the innocent one released.
We like that ending. Sacrifice is all well and good when it’s a Tale of Two Cities situation where both people are innocent, but we have this instinctive sense that the penalty should go to the one who earned it. This is not the story of the cross, as the kid pointed out.
One problem is, the alternative he suggested doesn’t work. If you don’t think it’s fair that God let Jesus take the punishment for our sin…would it be any fairer if God didn’t punish anyone for our sin?
I’d say it isn’t be fair or just. But I’d go a little farther and say it’s not possible. (more…)