“A sword will pierce through your own soul”
Luke 2:35

In a debate Fixed Point hosted between Richard Dawkins and John Lennox, Dawkins asked the following question:

“The ‘creator of the universe’ couldn’t think of a better way to rid the world of sin than to come to this little speck of cosmic dust and have himself tortured and executed so he could forgive himself? …It’s petty.”

The question is, of course, meant to be a clever belittling of the incarnation and crucifixion. But as a Christian who believes in the necessity of the atonement, I find it thought-provoking, especially in light of the exchange that follows:

As you watch the clip above, note how Lennox ties justice to God being a person and explains the incarnation as a personal revelation.

Think about how this impacts advent: Christmas becomes a personal revelation of God’s personal view of justice. Here are three thoughts:

  1. Jesus personally reveals the necessity of Christmas: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).
  2. Jesus reveals more of the personal nature of the incarnation and crucifixion when he prays: “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me.” Note: this verse is one of the reasons Prof. Lennox wanted to correct Dawkins’ idea that the Father “killed” the Son. Yes, the Father “so loved the world that he sent his only begotten son,” but the Son willingly did the will of God. The suffering of Christ is sincerely felt and is sincerely given.
  3. Perhaps even more personal for us is Simeon’s prophecy to Mary in Luke 2:35: “A sword will pierce through your own soul.” Why tell a mother that her son will cause a sword to pierce her soul? First, because God is kind, and second, because it establishes the birth of Christ as an answer to the birth of Cain, Abel, and every child born since the fall. Remember: God told Eve that there would be pain in Childbirth. When Cain murdered Abel, she must have realized that this pain was not merely pain felt at birth but the lifelong piercing of her soul that children would bring. Because her children were sinners, Eve’s soul was pierced with pain. Because her son was the savior of sinners, Mary’s soul would be pierced.

Maybe the best way to understand justice and the incarnation is to understand it from the personal perspective of two mothers. If God’s anger for sin seemed “petty” when He ran them out of the Garden over a piece of fruit, it quickly became real and personal when sin leads one of Eve’s boys to kill the other.

The same is true for all of us. Sin as a concept might seem arbitrary and contrived, so requiring atonement for justice might seem “petty.”  But when sin personally impacts our lives, we grasp its offense. We want justice. We want someone to answer. We want the God who is in heaven to respond and to do something. He does. “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21). And that’s far from “petty.”