In one of the classic statements of the Christian faith, the Apostle Paul says:
God causes the one who didn’t know sin to be sin for our sake so that through him we might
become the righteousness of God [2 Corinthians 5.21].
And what is that “sin” that Jesus didn’t know and becomes for our sake?!
Generations of theologians have packed the word “sin” with all the sins they could find, and in
many cases, when treated “piously,” these sins became the personal failings of life: usually
around alcohol and sexual misbehavior.
And by putting all of this onto Christ, we’re forgiven and can breath a collective sigh of relief.
This may, in fact, be a part of the story, but if it is (and it may not be), it’s a very small part. For
the larger part of the story is Paul’s story - strange, how, many readers of Paul quickly step
away from him and begin piling on their own stuff, assuming that this is what Paul meant, or
even if he didn’t mean it, he should have.
The sin that Jesus didn’t know, and the sin that he became for our sake, is the sin of exclusion,
and all that goes along with that in human history. The sin of exclusion that welcomes some and
sends others packing, and deems them dangerous, labels them a threat and may kill them for
the sake of peace and security.
Paul lived much of his former life in the power of exclusion which explains his initial response to
the Christian movement - get rid of it, and get rid of those who espouse it. No matter the cost,
get rid of it.
But on the Damascus Road, the walls of exclusion came tumbling down, and the full light of
God’s covenant faithfulness dawned upon Paul.
At first, the bright light of God’s faithfulness was too much, and Paul (Saul) was blinded by it,
and only when one of the people to whom Saul was prepared to level the death sentence came
to Saul to pray with him did the scales of blindness fall from his eyes. Only when someone he
originally hated, despised and deemed worthy of death, touched him in prayer and love did Saul
realize what, in fact, God had done in Christ.
The one whom we we labeled as dangerous, whom we deemed heretical, and killed with all our
might, comes to us in prayer and love, in the resurrection, to reveal the light of God’s
faithfulness in the face of human pride and power that builds the walls of exclusion.
And it might just blind us as well. Until we realize the glory of God’s reconciling the world
through Christ - the whole of creation - not one piece left behind, not one creature excluded, no
one sent packing, but all welcomed by the Creator whose covenant faithfulness survives the
worst and proceeds to yet work the miracle of One God and One People, without the walls of
separation that drive the human story. And when those walls tumble, it’s God’s faithfulness
tearing them down, God’s righteousness holding all of creation together, that in Christ, all might