11 MILES / 11 PHOTOS — people and things that caught my eye while trekking through Chicago one sunny morning.
There are two signs in this photo. The dominant one, at least visually, is the ever-present golden arches. There are more than 33,000 McDonald’s worldwide, feeding 68 million people every day; that’s the combined populations of California, Texas, and Kentucky. Let’s all take a moment to let that sink in . . .
OK, that’s enough.
It’s the other sign – CHRIST DIED FOR OUR SINS – that prompted me to take this photograph and, on this Good Friday, offer some reflections. Like many of you, I grew up in the church. Central to my church’s traditional understanding of Jesus was the belief that he was born for the single purpose of dying for our sins, of saving us from our sins, of paying the price for our sins, so that our broken relationship to God, caused by our sin, might be made right.
I’ve come to regard that understanding of who Jesus was and what Jesus came to do as narrow and limited. Reducing Jesus’ life to “dying for our sins” is not unlike visiting Washington D.C. and claiming that our nation’s capital is all about the Potomac River; that’s not a false claim, just an insufficient one.
CHRIST DIED FOR OUR SINS doesn’t say enough. It fails to point to the kind of life Christ lived, a life he invites us to live as well. In his living, Christ carried the world’s brokenness . . . and hurt . . . and hatred . . . and violence; yes, its sin. He took it, endured it, absorbed it, wept over it, challenged it, revealed an alternative way, and ultimately was killed because of it.
Christ was executed because he refused to use the world’s weapons. He was killed because he chose nonviolent resistance, love instead of hate, selflessness instead of self-preservation, inclusion rather than exclusion.
He poked and prodded the religious and political powers to the point that the threat he posed had to be silenced. No one challenges the status quo of society’s norms without paying the price.
If I were in charge of anchoring signs on church bell towers and roof tops, here are some five-word messages I’d choose to share with those who pass by:
CHRIST LOVED ALL HIS ENEMIES
CHRIST CARES ABOUT THE 99%
CHRIST LIVED BELOW HIS MEANS
CHRIST CHALLENGED THE DOMINANT POWERS
CHRIST NEVER TURNED ANYONE AWAY
CHRIST WALKED HIS SELFLESS TALK
CHRIST SHOWS US GOD’S HEART
What messages do you come up with?