For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
— John 3:16.
I remember hearing it in the 3 p.m. prayers. It is used so often that it is fair to say that this is the closest thing Christianity has to an opening spiel.
The verse shows pride in a God – or at least the Son did – who abandoned all the trappings of omnipotence and lived as a human being.
The Son of God was to die in the most humiliating and most painful fashion possible at the time, and in the process save the world – or the souls of mankind, whichever comes first. In short John 3:16’s implied sacrifice is that God (or his only begotten Son) became man and had to die horribly.
Unfortunately, if we are to test using many dictionary definitions of sacrifice, God did not do such a thing.
God never died, and even if we are saying that he gave up a Son he never lost Jesus. Men do not just walk up from their own graves especially after having suffered trauma coming from a crucifixion. The truth is God never had the prospect of giving up anything. He had no chance of losing, not one iota.
Loss is exactly what every dictionary requires of sacrifice. For one, the American Heritage Dictionary says when used as a noun sacrifice is defined as “forfeiture of something highly valued for the sake of one considered to have a greater value or claim.”
Think of a soldier that fights in Mindanao, or if he’s American, fights in Afghanistan. He sleeps on the ground under the sky; he endures great discomfort and danger, and he will most likely be shot by the enemy. He will die for his country. And not only is the soldier affected but so is his family at home who is in a constant state of dread that their loved one will come home a corpse.
How about a teacher? An 8-5 job can be draining even boring, but for many teaching is not always an 8-5 job. Sure the children go home, and so does the teacher, but the work never stops. The teacher still needs to grade projects, tests, maybe compute the over-all grade for the month. And still there is the lesson plan to do, on top of reading crappy essays if she is the type who avoids giving multiple choice tests.
In both cases, the loss of personal time and especially the loss of life are never to be returned again. Teachers teach and soldiers defend the country anyway because the country and the welfare of children are believed to be a greater good; greater than a soldier’s life and a teacher’s personal time.
So how does this compare to Jesus dying, when he was never dead permanently?
To be fair let us explore all possibilities. Maybe the sacrifice implied in John 3:16 was just the act of dying or, the act of being human?
Maybe eating everyday is a chore and so is walking? Maybe it’s beneath God to be human? If your answer to that is yes then God basically hates himself since we are made from his own image or so the bible says. Then again if you use all known definitions of an all-powerful and all-knowing God, thirty years of humanity plus one day of excruciating torture and eventual death is not even a pin prick.
Perhaps people give the whole cross thing too much credit. To be gripped in fear at the prospect of dying on it is very human, but if you’re a god, what’s a day of torture? How can you judge the effect? A god dying on the cross could easily mean just as much as a Bill Gates buying a building in the Philippines … peanuts.
Besides if dying is all we admire then why don’t we worship soldiers? Why are there no set of statues of people who died in protecting the country during World War II in our altars at home? We don’t worship teachers, sometimes we don’t even obey our parents; they have sacrificed as much or even more.
On this regard the Chinese have it better with their ancestor worship. Who indeed has a direct line in you becoming what you are today other than your ancestors? It is they who we should be thanking day after day and not just on Sunday.
I keep hearing in my head that I’ll be called an ingrate because a god (or a man) with no obligation to do so, died for me. Again, he did not die. Still if you want to be technical about the heart ceasing to beat and getting buried, again, Jesus did not stay dead.
But is death all there is to humanity? Did he have to die? Why are we so obsessed that he died for us? Maybe we should really answer first if God was really a man.
Perfection would give that query a resounding no. If Jesus was perfect then he shouldn’t be called human, after all it has been said that no man is perfect. Even the bible says it so under Romans 3:9 and most especially verse 10: ‘no one is righteous, not one.’
But Christianity, unfortunately, want it all – Jesus was perfect in every way. Many schools of thought, if not all, consider him as god and man at the same time.
I find it ironic that for a sect that prides itself on faith or the belief in the absence of fact, Christians always want that naked display of divinity.
Jesus had it all going for him, and this they admire: a man/god aware of all cards on the deck; he advises, he gives sermons, he heals people, and he is never in doubt about his destiny. In short Jesus is still basically a god! Whether he bled like a fountain or had cardiac arrest is beside the point.
Humanity is not just about dying and all the physical hardships. Humanity is also about living in imperfection. It is to live in doubt; never really being sure what life holds. And the most important thing which makes a man great or not is to overcome in spite of these challenges.
Humanity is about asking who am I? why am I here? where am I going? and answering these three existential questions through sweat, perseverance, pain, heartache, and failure. In the end not all will have answers, but majority do try. The learning never ends, as they say.
A soldier will sacrifice his life because he thinks the country is worth it. But he never knows that his country will win the war, or what future his family will have without him. Sometimes soldiers don’t even know if the war is worth fighting. Yet they do it anyway because they believe it was worth it or at least they force themselves to believe.
A teacher doesn’t know how many of the students will grow up to be good adults yet she does the job because children need to be taught. Incidentally that is also what can be said of parents; they don’t know if in the end it can all be worth it: the crappy 8-5 job, the changing of diapers, the embarrassing appearance at the principal’s office. They are parents and they have a child to raise, that’s it.
On the other hand, Jesus knew everything: his destiny, his mission, his death. He never even longed for the love of a woman or so the critics of The Da Vinci Code would want to believe. Jesus knew his death would be painful. And the kicker there is he knew that it wouldn’t be permanent. That is supposed to represent humanity?
I can almost hear him say, “no time for girls…I have a mission to do…I will die for the sins of man and oh, wait for me in 3 days.”
Jesus is and always will be a god who in suicidal fashion set himself up for the cross. He never was betrayed because Judas was never a friend. John 6:64 shows that he had an inkling that a traitor was in the midst. He knew what he was in for.
Lastly, a man sacrifices because he believes he has nothing else. For a soldier there is nothing else to defend the country with but with his own life; a teacher cannot teach without giving up a few more dozen hours and a respectable paycheck; a parent has to forget that he or she was once single who could use up money and time like there was no tomorrow, just to raise a child.
Does God have nothing else than to pretend to give up a Son who as a “perfect man” went in and out of this world with barely a challenge?
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