“Tell me true, tell me why was Jesus crucified…
is that a hint of accusation in your eyes?”
Roger Waters, “The Post War Dream”
God is in pain.
It’s been going on for thousands of years, perhaps millions. And I’m afraid it’s going to continue for a long time yet.
And what’s causing the pain, is us. The human race. Because we don’t care. We would rather fight and torture and kill each other than admit that we needed God. And even when we have admitted it, we have often carried on fighting and killing. Not you personally, of course. You’re not like that – and neither am I. Except sometimes. Ever told a half-truth to get out of trouble? Ever thrown the charity appeal envelope straight in the waste paper without reading it? Ever got bored by all the tragic stories on the nine o’ clock news?
Every time we do something unloving, every time we do something dishonest – and every time we don’t do the loving or honest thing that we could have done – then God is in pain. And since people have behaved more or less like you and me (or worse) since time immemorial, and since they show few signs of behaving differently – then God must be in eternal anguish.
So what do you do if someone hurts you? Hurt them back? Not directly, maybe. But isn’t that what we call justice? If you hit me, I hit you back. If you steal from me, you go to jail. If you reject my love – then I hate you! What if God treated us like that?
On the other hand, you can always hurt somebody else. It’s not fair, but we all do it. If we can’t get back at the person who’s hurt us, we pass it on to someone else. Had a bad day at work? Yell at the kids. Boss put you down? Make your underlings feel small. Girlfriend ditched you? …
Or you can forgive. What does forgiveness mean? It means accepting the hurt that has been done to you, refusing the “justice” of hurting them back, or the injustice of hurting someone else. Keeping the hurt to yourself, and saying to whoever has hurt you that you want to reestablish good relations. And that’s what God does. Throughout his eternity of pain, he refuses to hurt us back. He accepts the pain, bears it, and tries to tell us how much he wants us to love him and each other.
What Jesus did when he died on the cross was to show us God’s eternal pain. In fact, in some way beyond our comprehension, he actually bore God’s pain, then and there. All the centuries of hate and spitefulness and petty selfishness that is human history. All that, concentrated into a few hours of human time. All that, to cry out to his tormentors – all of us – “I forgive you. I love you. What are you going to do with my love?”