Evil, Suffering, and Vicarious Sacrifice

Evil and suffering are mysteries. How can they coexist with a loving God?  What is this thing theologians call vicarious sacrifice? Those are two deep and difficult issues worthy of our contemplation. I believe they are linked from the foundation of the world.

Genesis chapter 3 describes the nature of our first transgression and its consequences. God gave man a direct, clear, and personal command. Man disobeyed thinking there was something better and God was keeping it from him. Man died and, according to Romans, we all died in him. That's when sin, death, and suffering entered into the world. Their first recorded offspring was a boy named Cain. It goes on from there. There is suffering. We are part of the root cause. Yet, it's still mysterious how suffering can be just.

God is attributed with the first sacrifice recorded in the same chapter of the book of beginnings.
Genesis 3:21  And the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.
You can't get animal skins without slaughtering an animal. This sacrifice foreshadowed Christ's sacrificial death on the cross for us.

Remember Aslan, in C. S. Lewis's, The Chronicles of Narnia, where he spoke of a magic built into the earth long ago? He explained he touched that magic through his death, and so, returned to life after the work of his sacrifice was finished. It was a magic that went all the way back to the spiritual heritage of creation.

I believe God built into creation from the beginning a special power to sacrifice and patient suffering. Power from that kind of suffering may counter balance the sin, death, and suffering in the world. Maybe, it's powerful enough to destroy evil and recreate a sinless creation. Jesus tried to teach us to turn the other cheek so we could tap into this ever present magic. However, only Jesus could go to the very root. It was like a scroll that only he could open and he did through his death and resurrection. The magic has a unique form and only Jesus' nature fits the form. Only his stature can fill it.
Revelation 5
1  Then I saw in the right hand of him who was seated on the throne a scroll written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals. 2  And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, "Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?" 3  And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it, 4  and I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. 5  And one of the elders said to me, "Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals."
It was like a secret back door access to the most basic language of a software program so that the programmer could recover the program if a hacker were to steal it (Redemption). Satan stole Adam's dominion over the earth resulting in sin and death that spread to all mankind and creation itself. Christ came in through the back door of suffering and sacrifice, erased the old software code, and created new code for his new creation. The Holy Spirit executes the new code in each of our lives, the new heaven, and the new earth.

Christ demonstrated the power of sacrifice and patient suffering. Whenever we endure suffering patiently, in faith, we tap into the same ancient magic that Christ tapped into regardless of how feeble we feel. Suffering is hard and unnoticed by man. Even the very flesh of Christ broke in the garden and on the cross; his suffering was so real, so personal, and so great. Yet he obeyed from somewhere beyond flesh and feeling and broke that old dark power once for all.

I bet the significance of our patient suffering will be one of the first things to startle us in heaven. Suffering is a mystery. The power of Christ's vicarious sacrifice is also a mystery. Maybe we can't have one without the other. Maybe we come out ahead with both.

Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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