Why did Jesus have to die? Part 2
Updated: Mar 22
Are you perfect?
Do you give away surplus money that is sitting in your bank to humans that are starving to death? 21,000 people will starve today while many of us have full food cupboards.
Do you campaign for victims of modern slavery (40 million of them) to be set free?
Do you always buy expensive Fairtrade products (chocolate, coffee, sugar, etc.) so that workers in the supply chain get fair wages?
Do you avoid every clothing brand that uses sweatshops and opt to pay a higher price because of it?
Do you offset your carbon footprint for every car, bus or plane journey you take?
Did you panic-buy products during the Lockdown at the expense of others?
Are you secretly glad when things go wrong for people you are jealous of?
Have you ever made bullying comments under the guise of “banter”?
Have you ever cheated on your partner?
Do you help the homeless?
Do you look at images on the internet which you know you shouldn’t?
Now maybe you’ve read that list and feel like you pass the morality test. Let me ask a final question: what one thing would you dread people finding out about you if everything was laid bare? If you have no skeletons in your closet, then congratulations – you are in the minority. The Bible teaches that “there is no one who is righteous, no, not even one!” I know that I fail the morality test and there are many things I would wish to hide. We may be tempted to conclude that we are generally good people because we can always think of someone who is worse. If morality is a hierarchy, then even if we never reach the top, at least we are doing better than fascist dictators or murderers! If there is an afterlife, maybe we think that God would be lucky to have us compared to other people.
Carl Jung, the psychologist spoke of “the shadow” within each of us. It may be dormant, largely due to our environment and the ‘hand that we have been dealt’. But tweak that environment for the worse and you likely awaken a monster inside that you never knew existed. This may seem like metaphorical nonsense, yet an economics phenomenon called the Kuznet’s Curve shines an interesting light on this topic. It suggests that economic development initially leads to the environment deteriorating. For example, the Industrial Revolution paved the way for drastic improvements in the wealth and life-chances of individuals in certain societies, but also played a role in causing the current climate crisis. The Kuznet’s Curve shows that after a certain level of economic growth has been achieved (people are living comfortably and the level of absolute poverty has been considerably raised), the society begins to improve its relationship with the environment and eventually levels of environmental degradation reduce.
What image does the Kuznet’s Curve portray? It reminds me of being on an airplane when the safety video instructs you to sort out your own oxygen mask first and then help those around you. At first, a society just wants to get rich and grasp as many comforts as it can. And why not?! Life has been incredibly hard for the majority of people throughout history. Humans desire at least the basic needs for them and their families to survive. Yet, this can come at a cost to other species lower down the food chain and local environments being stripped of resources. When fighting for your own survival, you don’t tend to care what the long-term consequences are for others. However, when we finally reach a certain standard of living, we see the harm that has been done to the environment; morality awakes!
We avidly recycle; offset carbon footprints; look for alternatives to plastic; reduce our flights to just once a year for a sunny two-week holiday but cut out regular European mini-breaks. Then, we tell ourselves that we are good people for implementing these sacrificial lifestyle changes. But the Curve implies that we only now care about the environment because we’ve gained the capacity to care. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs documents the same phenomenon; our energy gets diverted away from the need to simply survive, to partaking in moral issues. What would happen if you strip away our luxuries and wealthy privileges and worry about survival re-emerges? Maybe the dormant “shadow” within could rear its ugly head.
The panic buying in Lockdown was a small taster of what can happen when an affluent society realises the fragility on which it’s built. Many of us have money left over to spend on frivolities because food and clothing is cheap (mass produced, pumped with hormones, shipped in from thousands of miles away as it’s cheaper to produce overseas and not pay workers fairly). Would you volunteer to pay more for food and clothes to create a fairer world and sacrifice the spare money we have? If you are reading this post using an iPad or smartphone, did you know the raw materials for these devices are mined by underpaid and overworked Congolese teenagers, and those materials are then assembled by underpaid and overworked Chinese teenagers? How are we any better than nations that grew rich by exploiting slaves?
We don’t really know what depths of depravity we are capable of because, for many of us, we have our survival needs taken care of; when we give to others, we give out of our surplus. A North Korean Christian, imprisoned for 15 years in a labour camp because of her faith, was given one small mouldy piece of bread to live off each day. She described how excruciating the hunger pains were that she used to endure. However, she would share her tiny allocation of food with her cellmates as she wanted to demonstrate God’s love to them. Wow! I certainly have never been put in a position where I had to choose to eat or share a meagre mouthful of food. I’m not sure I would be able to share. I’ve been guilty of stock-piling food for my family when I was concerned that we may go without.
Sometimes I wonder how some Germans living under Nazi rule could betray their Jewish neighbours or how the Soviet Union were able to find such a huge domestic army of spies to betray their fellow citizens who were not adhering to communist principles. Maybe these dire environments demonstrated “Survival of the Fittest” in action – if you spy for the government, at least you and your family will be safe. I may look down upon these cowards but how different were they to me today? I care about my family and ensuring their survival – could I stoop to evil actions in a society that is not as free as my own?
All of this has been to make you aware that we aren’t as moral as we think. There are always exceptions to the rule, however, and many of us can think of caring and compassionate people we know; but it may be possible that they too have a “shadow” that hasn’t yet been triggered.
What does this have to do with Jesus’ death on a cross? We are not perfect, not even one of us. We are given a set amount of years to live in a tiny part of the known universe, and thank goodness that is all – imagine if Hitler had been allowed to live for a 1000 years and could extend his reach further than Earth? Imagine the death and destruction that would be unleashed! If there is eternal life available to humans, wouldn’t you be glad to know that only the perfect ones get it? God can’t allow less than perfect people to live forever because we have huge capacity to spoil it for everyone else, even our 'small sins' that we think so inconsequential (a bullying tweet sent without a second thought could be the final nail in the coffin of a near-suicidal teenager). Maybe we should be content to have received the gift of life at all; to be given a shot at enjoying all life has to offer for a limited time, and if we fail the test then we don’t qualify for the next round. The stakes would be too high to let in the failures to wreak havoc forever!
God is just, He can’t overlook sin. Would you want Him to? Isn’t it comforting to know that one day all evil will be dealt with and there will be real consequences -- every abuser, thief, trafficker, terrorist or murderer that got away with their crime will be judged and found wanting. It’s comforting as long as we think we will be spared! Who is perfect to receive eternal life? Surely no one. Is that the end of the story?
The pieces of the puzzle are falling into place to answer why Jesus had to die:
we are messed-up humans with no hope of salvation under our own steam;
God is loving and wants no one to perish;
Jesus claimed to be this God -- backed up by performing miracles and fulfilling all 351 prophecies.
What did Jesus’ death on a cross achieve? On to Part Three…
References  Romans 3:10  The Relation between the Ego and the Unconscious, Carl Jung  https://www.explorepsychology.com/maslows-hierarchy-of-needs/#:~:text=5%20Levels%20of%20Maslow%E2%80%99s%20Hierarchy%20of%20Needs%201,...%204%20Esteem%20Needs.%20...%205%20Self-Actualization.  https://www.huffpost.com/entry/how-the-iphone_b_5800262?guccounter=1&guce_referrer=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cuYmluZy5jb20v&guce_referrer_sig=AQAAAAf1DjDEgXnb_uPDDlADDnuoPZddfmWyj5kU9sp6hl3YeWe1FyJYNRfB-QOTstHzdf7PVnk7zMmfVgkO9RhVpaciymEg8MvQAcVHf1Mt0iptvCd-178T5wUpRne6elBRU3UGgLi19otbxCTQyDCLzw5QKwuHOBLVXhtgW5SY139N (beware – this article contains profane language!)
 2 Peter 3:9, 1 John 4:8