I'm still "chewing on" this, so bear with me :).
I just finished the book Eli, by Bill Myers, for my class. I am so glad that my class is reading this book. It is sharing the gospel in a way that they can understand and relate to.
Eli is about a man who gets into an accident at the beginning of the book. This man, Conrad, has made a lot of mistakes over the course of his lifetime, and was basically left with nothing to live for. Affairs, leaving his wife and daughter, many divorces, etc. When he got into the accident, he went into a coma. While he was in this coma, he went into a "parallel universe," which I would consider basically the same thing as a dream. But, it was more real than a dream. He was living in this other universe as if life was normal, except for one thing. Jesus had not come 2000 years ago. He came in 1970. When he "woke up" in this universe, he recognized everything, except it looked older and wasn't as developed. He figured out that it was 1970, and through a series of (kind of funny- the shepherds were hippies!) events, ended up at a motel, where Jesus was born in the laundry room. The book flashed back to his daughter who was with him in the hospital room, then back to him, only Jesus was older. Oh, and the name for Jesus in this book was Eli Shepherd. Through Eli, you see what it would have been like for Jesus to live now. He hung out with the "scum of society," only those people were porn producers, transvestites, druggies, racists, etc. He heals, raises people from the dead, and speaks truth against the religious establishment.
"Eli strips away religious tradition to present Jesus fresh and unvarnished" (found on the back of the book). This statement is so true.
In the preface, he reminded his readers that it is not easy bringing such rich culture into the present, it is really possible to discuss the prophecies being fulfilled, and tells how he feels he has deprived the story much of its depth. It's also difficult to show just how dark a world would be without Jesus. He said, "To accurately portray a world in which Christ has not yet come would be to create a society so dark and ugly that it's doubtful any of us would recognize it, let alone relate to it." So, if you decide to read it, keep those things in mind. He urges his readers to pick up God's Word and read that before they read this book. He calls this an "appetizer," telling them to "go to the real banquet."
Now... onto what God is teaching me through this. I completely understand that Jesus died so that we might have life. Jesus died for our sins so that we may have a relationship with Him, and a way into the kingdom of God. Jesus paid our debt, had mercy on us, and provides grace. Jesus loves us for who we are. This book put it into more of a reality for me.
Throughout Eli's life and ministry, Eli would tell them that justice and mercy would come together soon. Soon they would see how. When he was being beaten, he kept saying "Justice and mercy." When Eli was being beaten, Conrad looked down at Eli, only to see himself. Through this (it happened several times), he began to see what he was talking about. "That's what he deserved. That and more. That was the justice that Eli was talking about." He kept trying to help him, but he couldn't. It was very difficult for him to understand why Eli had to be the one to suffer and die. Through this, Conrad was having flashbacks of his life. "More failures. From childhood, from adolescence, from his adult life." "Justice and mercy. Justice and Mercy." He was starting to realize at this moment that the two were being brought together. "Suddenly the realization roared into place, so powerful that it left Conrad staggering under another wave of dizziness. Was it possible? Could it be? Here? Here, at this very moment? Could it be that the two were finally being united? Justice for every one of Conrad's failures? Punishment for all he'd ever done wrong? But a punishment poured out onto someone else? Yes, Conrad should be up there. Yes, Conrad was the one who should be punished. But another person was taking that punishment for him. Justice was still being accomplished, holiness was still being preserved, but through the suffering of someone else instead of Conrad. Through the suffering of Eli. And that- that was the mercy. Justice and mercy. Two opposite truths coming together in one man, in one act of unfathomable love." When Eli died, Conrad could not look away. "This was his. What Eli was undergoing was the punishment for Conrad's own failures. Failures for which he would never have to suffer. Justice was being served. Pure, undefiled, holy justice... and with it, infinite, loving mercy. Together. At the same time. In one man."
"In the old world, the one before the accident, when he heard of Christ dying for his sins, he simply chalked it up to being part of his culture- a lathering televangelist, a dangling necklace, a peeling fresco. But what he'd seen was the slaughter of a real human being, a loving, giving person, the greatest person he'd ever met. The slaughter of love that had looked him directly in the eyes and said, 'I'm doing this for you- it's all for you.' "
This morning, I've been listening to my iPod on shuffle. Many of the songs have been playing have been talking about Jesus' death and what that means. Here are the lyrics to a song that I keep listening to over and over:
Blood on My Hands, by Todd Agnew
Each crack of that whip was for my mistakes
Blood is on my hands
Each stumble up that hill was my step to take
Blood is on my hands
How do I say thanks for this
In the cross, In the cross, be my glory ever
Till my ransomed soul shall find
Rest beyond the river
Each tear that flowed was by my sorrow sown
Blood is on my hands
Each drop that was spilled, my debt fulfilled
His blood is on my hands
How can I say thanks for this
Jesus keep me near the cross
There a precious fountain
Free to all, a healing stream
Flows from Calvary’s mountain
I live every day focusing on what I do wrong, how I can do better, how I let people down. The justice for my sin created through Jesus' death, brings mercy. Because of Jesus' death and resurrection, I have freedom from this. I CAN'T be perfect. That is WHY Jesus had to die. Truly, through His death and resurrection, we have life, and life abundantly. I should serve, grow, do good works, etc because of my love for Him, not because I have to in order to have a relationship with Him. He loves me. That's all I need. He could never love me more, He could never love me less. He just loves me. And that love stirs a desire in me to spend time with Him daily, serve Him, and share Him. I mess up, daily. Praise God for His forgiveness. I have freedom. Freedom. Freedom.
Justice and Mercy.