Thursday, March 31, 2005

Cross-Shattered Christ: Reflection on "The Fourth Word"

"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"--Matthew 27:46

"We seek to 'explain' these words of dereliction," says Hauerwas, "to save and protect God from making a fool out of being God, but our attempts to protect God reveal how frightening we find a God who refuses to save us by violence" (that is, by power of armies and rebellions). The danger of misunderstanding these words, taken from Psalm 22, is that we misunderstand who Jesus is. How can God forsake God? So we may wrongly doubt in these words that Jesus is truly God.

In addition, further led down this road by The Passion Movie, we may see Christ more as an object of God's anger, rather than a willing participant who did not regard equality with God something to be grasped and who in love laid down his life because God would have it no other way.

"Here God in Christ refuses to let our sin determine our relation to him," Hauerwas says, then continues like this:
God's love for us means he can hate only that which alienates his creatures from the love manifest in our creation . . . any account of the cross that suggests God must somehow satisfy an abstract theory of justice by sacrificing his Son on our behalf is clearly wrong. Indeed, such accounts are dangerously wrong. The Father's sacrifice of the Son and the Son's willing sacrifice is God's justice. Just as there is no God who is not the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, so there is no god who must be satisfied that we might be spared. We are the spared because God refuses to have us lost.
These words are easily misunderstood and one reason we must reflect on these words of Jesus at the cross is that, properly understood, they shape us as the Psalms shape us. Jesus, says Hauerwas, is the only life that is "the perfect prayer the Psalms are meant to form."

Jesus' cry of "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me" is not God becoming something other than God, not an act of self-abandonment, nor is it a lesser god being forsaken by a greater one. Instead, Hauerwas explains, "this is the very character of God's kenosis--complete self-emptying made possible by perfect love."

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