There are a number of different way that you can understanding the salvation that we have in Jesus. Perhaps the most compelling for me is ‘Christ Victorious’ (or ‘Christus Victor’), a way of understanding the atonement, which can complement other views. ‘Christ Victorious’ is simple: Jesus’ sacrificial life, death and resurrection form a total victory over sin in all its forms. The victory that Jesus achieved is given to us all as a gift from God, by his grace, and we are made right in God’s eyes as a consequence. This view of Jesus’ sacrifice takes us beyond individual salvation and challenges us to take on sin in all its forms in our lives, just like Jesus did.
A key passage that supports this view of Jesus’ sacrifice is Heb 2:14-15:
Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery (Hebrews 2:14-15).
The devil is biblical metaphor for sin in all its forms, including individual, collective, and institutional. During Jesus’ life, he was not content with quietly not sinning, which presumably he could have done if it was all about individual sin. Instead, Jesus took on religious, secular, and sociocultural manifestations of sin.
The Pharisees epitomised a religious institutional manifestation of sin, with their painfully legalistic approach to spirituality meaning that they seemed to completely miss the point of what a relationship with God should be like. There are countless examples of Jesus challenging the behaviour and thinking of the Pharisees, with the Sermon on the Mount being perhaps the most memorable.
The Romans were the secular power of the day. While Jesus had revolutionaries among his closest followers, and many expected him to start a revolution and overthrow the Romans, this was not his mission. Instead, Jesus challenged the secular Roman powers of the day through his teachings about the Kingdom of God, and was crucified as King of the Jews, and a threat to Roman secular power (Matt 27:37).
The sociocultural context in which Jesus lived was very different to ours today: for example, there was no welfare state, so the poor and disabled had a poor lot. Jesus spent a long time with what would have been considered the ‘lower echelons’ of society, and was criticised for this (e.g. Matt 11:19). Again, while restoring justice to the disadvantaged in society was not Jesus’ mission (Matt 26:11), Jesus seemed to try to improve the lot of those he came into contact with, both materially and spiritually.
What are the forms of sin that we see in and around our lives? We talk a lot about identifying, struggling against, and tackling our own sin. But what about the forms of sin that we see in our church, in other religious institutions, in the workplace, and in society generally? Do we see injustice, bullying, greed, dishonesty? Following the example of Jesus, we should make it our mission to deliver a dose of restorative justice whenever we can.