Does A Legalistic View Of The Cross Undermine God’s Unconditional Love?
A legalistic view of the Cross suggests God was more concerned with our guilt and restoring His honor than desiring a personal relationship. Did God really need to be appeased by human sacrifice as the other Old Testament gods? The focus on blood being spilled for God’s sake is culturally and relationally irrelevant.
A legalistic view of the Cross undermines the beauty of God’s unconditional love. The Cross was not necessary as if God couldn’t love us until death accounted for our sins. Even human parents don’t stop loving their children because they sin. The Cross was meant to change our view of God, not God’s view of us. The Cross reconciles us to God, not God to us (2 Cor 5:19). The Cross is about changing human attitudes and not God’s attitude. We must avoid any suggestion that the purpose of the Cross is so that God could better accept or love us.
No single biblical passage indicates that we must interpret the Cross in legalistic terms as if God needed to be appeased or satisfied before He could fully love us. I Tim 2:5-6 says: “For there is one God and one mediator between God and human beings, Christ Jesus, himself human, who gave himself as a ransom for all people…” The passage does not explicitly say the ransom was just to appease God. The ransom can easily be understood as necessary much more for us. Jesus’ death wasn’t legally necessary from God’s perspective. The Bible says God delights more in a broken and contrite heart than sacrifice (Ps 51:16-17).
Other passages can be interpreted to suggest Jesus died to influence and prove His love for us. Some will die for a good man. Who dies for good much less evil people? God desires to save us from ourselves and the path of destruction we are headed toward. “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him” (Jn 3:17). If the Cross is a one-act of appeasement, why does Jesus exhort to take up the Cross daily and follow Him (Luke 9:23)? The Cross is not just something Jesus did to appease God. Christ, by following the path of the Cross to love and influence others toward God, is someone we can all follow in His footsteps.
Do we really think:
- God was so mad that He needed to be appeased by human sacrifice like the other OT gods
- God needed Jesus to die to change His attitude toward us
- God was more concerned with the guilt of our sins than the restoration of the relationship
- God had to be appeased and His honor restored before God could love us
- God couldn’t forgive us until God’s Son died
Is it more likely Jesus died to:
- Demonstrate to us the destructiveness of sin and forgiveness is never without a cost
- Convince us God would do anything to gain moral authority and credibility
- Prove to us God loves us more than we can ever imagine
- Enable us to know God sees us as Christ as our sins are nailed to the Cross
- Empower us to be comfortable with God despite our guilty feelings
- Persuade us to follow in Jesus’ footsteps to trust in God than our own wisdom