Reader Mail - God's Desire for Justice

Subject: the crossroads of primal instincts and morality

Message: Dammit. I feel like I'm a day late on so many accounts. Just yesterday I was going to send you an email (assuming I could find yours) of an audio recording of me just sharing with you my story and how you're podcast on You Made It Weird was so helpful at a pivotal time BEFORE YOU JUST INVITED THE WORLD TO SEND YOU AUDIO RECORDINGS WITH QUESTIONS. ;) And now, after listening to the debut podcast, the one question I was going to ask you IS THE FIRST QUESTION THAT'S ASKED! I have no more wind...

But to be honest, that's ok, because the heart of my real question comes at the first one you answered from a different angle. Here it is:

At what point did God begin to hold homo sapiens (or even hominins) accountable for their behavior on a moral level? My assumption is that basic survival instincts are at odds (or at least can be) with the instruction to "love your neighbor as yourself", and yet these very (primal) instincts were necessary ingredients for our evolution into human beings—image bearers of our Maker. So when did God decide to hold mankind accountable for the moral implications of these instinctual biases?

Message: I’m not sure exactly how God holds us accountable, or what that would look like. I don’t know very much about God. Does God have consciousness, awareness, or agency, or is God simply an animating force?

Beats me. I experience God as personal and aware, but I see things in our world that don’t fit what a loving, aware God would do or allow. I’m making some bad assumptions somewhere, but I don’t know where. My atheists friends say my assumption that God exists at all is where the error lies, but belief in God changes my life in wonderful ways. I'm happy to live in the tension.

So, I turn my attention to the story most central in my faith: the life of Jesus of Nazereth. Jesus, who was God (at least that’s what we say), let himself die on a cross to satisfy a need for violence and vengeance. But who’s need? Who was crying for Jesus to be crucified?

People. The crowd. The religious elites.

I think part of what the cross tells us is we have a brutal, punitive desire for barbaric justice. We’re the ones who think an electric chair, firing squad, or waterboard is a suitable response to transgressions. We're a fight fire with fire kind of species. So, we can talk about God holding us accountable, but what I find much more compelling is the way God showed us how to grow beyond our primal drives and into selfless, sacrificial living through Jesus.

I think we're the ones who need blood for the remission of sin, so God gave us his own.