Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Cost of Freedom

I don't claim to understand the mechanics behind the Atonement. Better, more sanctified men and women than I have confessed not to know how it works. But like them, I know that it works. I know it is real.

From an LDS perspective, I also know that it was known from the beginning that an Atonement would be necessary. It was known from the beginning that in order for us to grow and move forward and evolve like our Heavenly Parents, something like the Atonement would be needed. It was part and parcel of the process by which we would acquire physical bodies and be separated for a time from God, to allow us to grow and mature and win our "second estate."

What I also know is what I do not believe about the nature of and reasons for the Atonement. I do not believe the Atonement was necessary to fulfill some arbitrary rule or requirement set by God. I do not believe the Atonement was necessary to appease a wrathful Father. In my mind that would somehow set Christ the Merciful at odds with God the Wrathful, when we know that they were in perfect harmony. What I do believe is that it was somehow necessary because of the way reality is structured. Because progress is not possible without sacrifice.

And that brings me to what happened in the Atonement. I prefer not to get lacrimose or morbid or sanctimonious about the suffering of Christ. It is too sacred for that. But, again with insight afforded by modern-day revelation, we understand that the nature of Christ's suffering transcended ordinary suffering. Many have been crucified. But Christ's suffering was not confined to the cross. It began in the Garden of Gethsemane and finally ended on the cross. Only he took on the sins, illnesses and infirmities of the entire human race and indeed all creation.

I don't understand it, but I understand what it says about the freedom I enjoy, the goodness of life, the benefits of mortal life and the promise of eternal life. It says there is a cost.

What's more, the true value, the true nature of that Atonement is that it renews me, renews us, and renews all of creation in a way that allows us to walk in Christ's path. To join him in the restoration of all things, if we are willing to accept the cost.

Again, modern-day revelation provides some assistance to our understanding here, particularly the principle elaborated in Section 121 of the D&C. The way of God is a way of humility. A way that takes us not above creation, but beneath it. A way that is the opposite of pride. A way that is so much at odds with the notion of setting myself up in judgment over someone else, that judging others is one of the only things that can possibly exclude me from that way.

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