On October 23, 1983 suicide bombers killed 241 U.S. servicemen in Beirut, Lebanon. There was controversy over why the buildings in which the soldiers were staying weren't better defended. In December Ronald Reagan said that he took the blame and responsibility for any failures that took place in defending our servicemen, thus effectively ending any effort to assign blame to anyone else. Even though Reagan probably had nothing to do with the negligence involved in properly defending our soldiers, his taking the responsibility gave the actual culprits a free pass. As far as I know Reagan never suffered any of the consequences that would normally come from taking the blame for a tragedy of this magnitude. He didn't resign. He wasn't impeached and removed from office. No criminal or civil litigation was ever brought against him.
But I'm not attempting political commentary. Instead, I'd like to bring attention to the principal to which Reagan was appealing, and that we all accepted. That principal is the idea that the person with the highest amount of authority has the most responsibility. It is the same principal that people who don't believe in God use as part of their rationale: If there is a God, then He is the one ultimately responsible for all the evil and wickedness, and the resultant pain and suffering, that take place in this world. And perhaps there is something to that.
I brought up the tragic story of the Beirut bombings because I am wondering if this principal can help us understand the meaning of Jesus' death. The story that followers of Jesus tell is this: Jesus was the Son of God, who had been the agent that God used to create the universe. If that story is true, and if our principal is correct, then Jesus was ultimately responsible, or at least co-responsible, for all the evil and wickedness that has taken place in this world. If so, then should we understand Jesus' death as his admission that he was ultimately responsible for all the wrong that had happened in the world? And was his death his way of suffering the consequences that should come from admitting that responsibility? If that is the case, then just as the people under Reagan got a free pass, then are we also being given a free pass? Is this Jesus' way of telling us, "I've got you covered." By the way, the word "atonement" in the original Hebrew means "covering." When followers of Jesus talk about being covered by his blood, is this what they mean? If so, then this would seem to be very good news, indeed. We get a free pass from God because his Son has taken the responsibility for all the things that we have done wrong.
Of course, if the story is true, there is even better news than that. For the followers of Jesus claim that death could not contain him, and that he rose from the dead on the third day. And they say that he promises to raise us from the dead and give us eternal life if we will have faith in him and try to obey his commandments. And they say that his commandments are to love each other the way that he loved us. If we hurt someone, to make it right. And if we are hurt, to forgive. And not to look out for our own welfare, but for the welfare of others. And they say that just as he was quick to forgive all our past sins, he is quick to forgive all our present failings (of which there will be a multitude).
So if Ronald Reagan got it right (for once?), maybe we now have insight to what Jesus accomplished long ago. Worth thinking about.