How Jesus Takes Away the Sin of the World – Ron Rolheiser, OMI


We should be careful not to fall into a common misunderstanding about what this means. Because of certain biblical and doctrinal ways of expressing this, the impression can be given that Jesus’ suffering and death took away the sins of the world by somehow paying off a debt to God, namely, that God took Jesus’ suffering as compensation for our sin – implying that God had lived in anger since Adam’s sin, waiting for someone to adequately pay the debt before that sin could be forgiven. The images and metaphors used to express Jesus’ expiation for sin can, if taken literally, give that impression, but that is not what they mean.

Jesus takes away the sin of the world away by transforming it, by changing it, by taking it inside of himself and transmuting it. We see examples of this throughout his entire life, although it is most manifest in the love and forgiveness he shows at the time of his death.

In simple language, Jesus took away the sin of the community by taking in hatred and giving back love; by taking in anger and giving out graciousness; by taking in envy and giving back blessing; by taking in bitterness and giving out warmth; by taking in pettiness and giving back compassion; he taking in chaos and giving back peace; and by taking in sin and giving back forgiveness.

This is not an easy thing to do. What comes naturally is to give back in kind: hatred for hatred, anger for anger, coldness for coldness, revenge for hurt. Someone hits us so we hit back.

This dynamic is not just something we are asked to admire in Jesus. The incarnation is meant to be ongoing. We are asked to continue to give flesh to God, to continue to do what Jesus did. Thus our task too is to help take away the sin of the world.

We do this whenever we take in hatred, anger, envy, pettiness, and bitterness, hold them, transmute them, and eventually give them back as love, graciousness, blessing, compassion, warmth, and forgiveness.

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