August 28, 2007
When we read of the human sacrifices performed by Aztec priests, how do we respond? For many it is simply dismissed as barbarism. Others might even deny it, believing history has been re-written, downplaying the centality of the ritual sacrifices.I would propose otherwise. In the Old Testament scriptures, it is written that God has "set eternity in the hearts of men," that they might strive after God. This is an insight proposed by Don Richardson, who first experienced it in his efforts to share his Christian faith with the Sawi peoples of New Guinea.
The concept is as follows. In the beginning we, as humans made in God's image, were created with the truth written in our hearts. When evil entered the world through the fall, we became distorted. As the human race spilled over the world, the various cultures retained fragments of light and truth within, but it is seen through the distorted lens of our fallenness.
Am I suggesting that these ritual human sacrifices were good? In no way. They were tragic, as are so many actions conducted in the name of religion, well intended and sincere, but distorted by our own fallenness. Yes, the Fall even runs through the church, those who claim to speak in God's name. For this reason, we must with earnestness embrace a humility in our attitudes toward others, remain perpetually merciful in our actions and words, slow to judge.
The irony is that even many who easily accept the ideas of Don Richardson when he speaks of these matters as they pertain to backward foreign cultures have a very difficult time recognizing the "truth" that is in the hearts of those who live in our own modern American culture. We are often harsh at best and sometimes even brutal in our dealings with those who reject the values important to us or the ideals we identify with.
To cite but one example, Sigmund Freud is castigated as an enemy by some Church leaders who see his ideas as undermining Christian faith. But if truth were told, even though Freud denied the Bible and the Gospel, he had a commitment to integrity that led him to write a singular last book called "Beyond the Pleasure Principle." In this book he acknowledges the discovery of a self-destructive tendency in humans that initially baffles him. Why do we not, like Pavlov's dogs, seek pleasure? How can there be such an intense self-hate residing in so many people that it drives them to self destruction in one form or another?
The answer is the same as that discovered by Aztec priests. Sin must be atoned for. Essentially, the ultimate truth is this... blood must be shed to pay for our betrayal of God and truth and our selves, of who we were meant to be. The Aztec priests were trying to appease this God who was "out there" because they had a keen sense of His disapproval, that they were under judgement. Grievously, they did not know that the Ultimate Sacrifice of blood had been spilt on their behalf already. Their slaughter of innocents was futile, misguided.
Likewise, when people destroy themselves in our own world today, it is futile, misguided. It does not do any good whatsoever, though there is something in our hearts that demands that a price be paid, that blood be shed. In truth, the sacrifice has been accomplished. If we would but look up, and see. The God/Creator has blended justice with mercy in the most remarkable and astounding manner possible: through the sacrifice of His Son... at Calvary.