Diminishing Distances

16For it is clear that he did not come to help angels, but the descendants of Abraham.  17Therefore he had to become like his brothers and sisters in every respect, so that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make a sacrifice of atonement for the sins of the people. 18Because he himself was tested by what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested.
Hebrews 2 (NRSV)

I hate arrogance.  When I see a clear example of it I often make a note to shun the offender.  It is an imprint on my DNA to avoid arrogant people at all cost . . . to keep them at a distance and even increase the distance at every opportunity.[1]  I find pride to be shaming, destructive, and at the heart of everything that’s wrong with the Church.  

I imagine you too have some kind of moral discrepancy that grates against your preferences.  Perhaps you loathe personal irresponsibility.  Or you avoid the greedy.  Or you can’t stand liars. 

Flee from evil, right?

I remember being taught that God is holy and God cannot be in the company of evil.  I have a hunch that I know where this comes from, but I can’t think of anywhere in the New Testament that explicates such an idea.[2]  Instead, it seems to me, that much of the New Testament is about the work of Christ to undo the distance between his holiness and the unholy.  Whereas I hold the arrogant at more than arms-length, Christ passes the unpassable divide in search of them.  

Light piercing the darkness.

 This second chapter of Hebrews is about this diminishing work of Christ—diminishing the distance between creator and creation, that is. So much so, that Jesus becomes a creation.[3]  And with his human nature he subjects himself to all the suffering of human life.  He tastes the bitter sap of evil. He drinks from the grime encrusted cup of broken relationships.  He is crushed under the weight of inescapable, prejudicial, merciless human death. He takes on our sin, our shame, our brokenness, our aches, and nightmares and conquers the darkness of this age with his sacrifice. 

Rejoice that I am not God.[4]  Be glad that my tendency to ostracize particular sinners is not the operative notion of the Creator. 

On the other hand, what if?  What if he approached us the way I approach the arrogant?  

I won’t take that incarnational leap, I just hate Pharisaical litigation.  Have you ever smelled a leper?  Their sexual deviance makes my skin crawl!  I will not drink from the same well!  

Whew!  Lucky us. [5]

My salvation hinges upon grace that diminishes distances.  So it seems to me that part of my discipleship has to be incarnational.  That is, modeled upon Jesus’ move to be close to his creation.  I cannot allow my prejudice toward the arrogant to live unchallenged in me.  I must abide in the one who travelled through space and time to impart his grace to me.  I must cling to the Spirit that continually offers transformative grace to my . . . um, arrogance.  

How great is God!  How tremendous the love that conquers the divide.  How life changing the grace that reaches the ugliest corners of souls.  How wonderful the cross that wipes away my sin and the sin of those that frustrate me. How precious the blood poured out for friends and enemies.  What a merciful and faithful high priest!

May and we all be shaped by such grace!

[1] Never mind that this is a rather arrogant perspective.
[2] That doesn’t necessarily mean it isn’t there, but surely we must admit that there’s an awful lot of evidence of God through Christ interacting with sinful people.
[3] The comparison between Christ and the Jewish high priest is prevalent in Hebrews.  The priest was a representative of the people who offered intercessory sacrifices before God on behalf of the people.  The sacrificial system was one of tremendous separation between the people and God. The High Priest was the singular link between common Jews and God. Christ undoes the sacrificial system with his own sacrifice.  Additionally, Christ becomes an intersection between God and creation.  He is God and he is human.  This fulfills the priestly duty in an intimate, effective way that the old system could never accomplish. At least that’s the way I understand what’s happening in Hebrews.
[4] Or roll your eyes that I had the audacity to even write such a thing.
[5] I think it is worth noting that most other notions of God do operate the way I operate.  The ancient pagan gods were thought to be fickle and would only interact with those humans who could rise to their expectations.  Perhaps that’s why Christian churches remain very tempted by this perspective.


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