“Father forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” Jesus (Luke 23:34)
Five hundred years ago Martin Luther argued that it is through the cross of Christ we encounter the full revelation of God’s Self to humanity, that all theology, all understanding is determined through the God who dies on the cross.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in his Letters and Papers, declares,
“God let’s himself be pushed out of the world on to the cross. He is weak and powerless in the world, and that is precisely the way, the only way, in which he helps us, Matt. 8.17 makes it quite clear that Christ helps us, not by virtue of his omnipotence, but by virtue of his weakness and suffering. Here is the decisive difference between Christianity and all religions. Man’s religiosity makes him look in his distress to the power of God in the world: God is the deus ex machina. The Bible directs man to God’s powerlessness and suffering; only the suffering God can help. To that extent we may say that the development towards the world’s coming of age outlines above, which has done away with a false conception of God, opens up a way of seeing the God of the Bible, who wins power and space in the world by his weakness.” (p 196-7)
The cross is the place of revelation.
“For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I came to you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling.” (1 Cor. 2:2-3)
When Jesus is nailed to the cross and raised up, he speaks forgiveness. If we are to take seriously the reality that God has been fully revealed here at the cross, then Jesus is not simply being raised up on a cross over a piece of dusty, blood soaked land somewhere in the Middle East, rather, here at the cross Jesus is raised up over the whole cosmos, and it is over the whole cosmos Jesus speaks eternal forgiveness,
“And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” (John 12:32)
This is God’s eternal position towards all things.
“For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.” (Col. 1:19-20)
The Word of God is Jesus, and this Word speaks forgiveness, echoing out into all eternity.
In charismatic evangelical, reformed versions of the atonement and eschatology, the voice of the forgiving victim Jesus is drowned out by the cries of the damned; the god of evangelicalism prefers the screams of sinners in the fires of hell than the triumphant “It is finished!” call of Jesus from the cross; “for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ.” (1 Cor. 15:22)
At the cross Jesus says “forgive them” not “fuck them”.
Jesus has reconciled to himself “all thing” through the cross, and God speaks forgiveness and peace over the whole cosmos. This is grace. No economy of exchange, no “if you do I will” contract, no exhausting pursuit for the ghost of perfection, but an invitation into Life, into the dance of everlasting peace and reconciliation with all things.