I don’t have to tell you which publication has just shattered the British record for the best-selling nonfiction book. “Spare” by Prince Harry has dominated the headlines and unleashed a flood of revelations about his life and relationships.
Cultural commentator Caitlin Moran, having actually read the book, describes Harry as “desperately sad”. She says:
“Although he keeps making jokes -mainly self-deprecating – it just aches.”
Without planting myself in the crossfire of opinion surrounding this most controversial publication, it seems to me that, we are observing the consequences of a profound trauma in a little boy’s life acted out in adulthood. Overshadowing and affecting Harry’s adult life is the sudden tragic loss of his mother, Princess Diana.
What we all share in common with Harry is a past that seeks to disorder our present. Basic questions for each one of us remain:
“What have you done with what has been done to you?
What have you done with what you have done?”
The doom spiral down into the badlands of bitterness, hatred and recrimination is the destination we find ourselves in when we avoid the tough places of our own failures and the injuries we have experienced. These are the places where revenge is cultivated, where an identity is forged in reaction to our history. These are the breeding grounds for family conflict, ethnic violence and war.
Commenting on the Balkan war theologian Miroslav Volf describes the relentless spiralling of evil as humans look for payback.
“To triumph fully evil needs two victories, not one. The first victory happens when an evil deed is perpetrated; the second victory, when evil is returned. After the first victory evil would die if the second victory did not infuse it with new life.”
To break this ongoing cycle of sin, damage and grievance requires that we are extricated from acting out our past injuries, injustices or compensating and atoning for our own sins.
Jesus’ last words on the cross are recorded for us as a single word “tetelestai”: “completed”, “accomplished”, “covered and paid in full”
The wonderful, world-changing fact of the cross is that this is the place where every injury and injustice stops; where sinners and sinned against (and we all fall into both categories) can discover that the ties that bind us to the power of the past have been severed. Jesus has intervened on our behalf.
The cross, says Richard Hays
“Has broken the power of forces that hold humanity captive, brought the old world to an end, and inaugurated a new creation.”
The cross stands between us and our past. Jesus speaks “it is finished” over our loss, injury and sin so that our history can become a testimony of God’s forgiveness healing and freedom. Not that the past with its shameful and painful memories is erased so that we can live in some “eternal sunshine of the spotless mind” but rather that our past is viewed and experienced through the death-destroying power of the cross
Now, this is wonderful, but there is more.
In Romans 4:5 Paul says that when we place our faith in Jesus’ cross, we are “reckoned (or credited) righteous “. Value is conferred upon us, worth is gifted. We do not have to prove ourselves but are regarded as right before God in Christ. Our filthy rags are wrapped in his royal robes of righteousness.
Now this is yet more wonderful, but there is more
Oftentimes we simply think of righteousness as an impossibly high moral bar to strive for. That’s hardly good news. However, the language of “crediting” and “reckoning” is not just some cold transaction whereby God can treat us differently from what we know we are. Righteousness according to many commentators is not a measure but a power. It is the persistent, active, work of God to rectify what is wrong in us and restore what is corrupted.
It translates the Greek word “logidozomai”.
Stay with me.
This term is rooted in the language of proclamation, of speech. God is “wording” over us, proclaiming restoration, repair, wholeness and holiness over us. The God who spoke order and life out of chaos in Genesis 1 speaks order and life out of our disorder. The God who sustains the cosmos with a word of his power is speaking with that same authority over our lives.
The word of God will not return empty, it achieves what it proclaims. The word God speaks is generative and effective. It is indeed the power of God for salvation. Here then is great news for each of our histories: we do not need to remain under the thrall or shame of what we have done or what has been done to us. God is in Christ reconciling the world to himself.