Yesterday at our worship gathering, my buddy Andrew asked an earnest and sincere question. Thought I'd publish the response I just emailed him . . .
Andrew, you asked a great question yesterday. Essentially, why did Jesus have to die for our sins? Why couldn't God just forgive everyone without the agony and shame of the Cross?
There are many books and articles written about this, and a multitude of sermons have been preached, but I'll just boil it down to a few central Biblical concepts.
The seriousness of sin. God is holy. There is no imperfection in his character. None. We, as imperfect people who struggle with sin all the time, see sin as a normal part of our world - it's not good, but it's not necessarily that big of a deal. For God, sin is a HUGE thing. It is an attack on his perfect holiness, righteousness and justice, and this universe is HIS universe, not ours. Jesus died, for one thing, to reveal to us just how seriously God takes sin. Our sins put the Son of God on the Cross.
The remedy for sin. Look, if you went to a doctor because you were sick, and that doctor told you that the reason you were sick is that you have a serious infection. You, the doctor says, will die unless you have a blood transfusion. But you respond, "How about you just do everything EXCEPT the blood transfusion? Maybe some vitamins, or some medicine or something?" A good doctor will still insist on the blood transfusion because it's the only way to save you. If you say "no," then that's on you.
You may continue to insist on a less expensive route or a less invasive route, but a good doc will never sugarcoat your situation and lead you to believe that there is any way to health aside from the correct remedy given the seriousness of your diagnosis. God could have patted us on the head and told us that our sickness is really not that seriousness, but because he loves us, he told us the truth, and he himself paid the extravagant price for that remedy which alone could save us.
The Cross. "The wages of sin is death (Romans 6.23)." The only way for our sickness (our sin problem) to be treated required the blood of Christ to be shed on our behalf. His holiness and righteousness spilled out on behalf of those who were infected by sin. God understand that this is the only way - we still think that sin isn't that big of a deal. Surely God could just ignore it and tell us everything's ok. We're wrong. Our sin can't be ignored - it is open rebellion against the Creator and Sustainer of all things. Jesus said, "I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am [the one I claim to be], you will indeed die in your sins (John 8.24 NIV)."
So, the bad news - sin leads to death, and we are all sinners. Now for the good news (Gospel) - Jesus died on our behalf so that we could live. "In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins (1 John 4.9-11 ESV)."
Now, for those of us redeemed by the blood of Jesus, it's time to stop dying and start living (see Ephesians 2.4-10)!