by Wayne Schwab
Christianity has a unique message. God not only tells us how to live; God helps us to do it.
We are called to be loving and just in every relationship, in every part of life. Our problem is that we do not have the power to do it. We can go part of the way but not the whole way. By ourselves, we do not have the power to cope effectively with whatever blocks love and justice. We are weak. We need to be helped – to be saved – from the powers of evil, sin, and death. Where is such a power? And can we share it?
The good news – the Gospel – is that the power we seek is at work in Jesus Christ and he shares that power with us.
The risen Jesus tells the disciples to continue his work, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you” (John 20:21b). The Father sent him to make clear that God’s power overcomes evil, sin, and death. Jesus has that power and shares that power – the Holy Spirit – with us. “He breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’” (John 20:22). Here is the help – the salvation – we need. We share Jesus’ power – the Holy Spirit – to love and to be just. We have the power, with Jesus’ help, to act and to act with confidence. The same Holy Spirit that Jesus breathed on his disciples two thousand years ago he also breathes on us. Therefore, with courage, we can act and can seek to do what we believe God calls us to do.
Our baptism and reaffirmation of faith are our commitment to join Jesus to make the world more loving and more just.
There are those in the world who believe an alternative idea. In this other teaching, our disobedience has so offended God that someone has to pay the price by dying for us to be reconciled to God. Jesus’ death on the cross pays the price or atones for our sin and evil.
Lay aside this substitutionary atonement with its theme of punishment. Now, through the power of the Holy Spirit, with God’s help we can cope with evil, sin, and death. Sharing in the power of the Holy Spirit, we are saved from our weakness, so that we can respond with love and justice to the challenges we face.