Sunday October 3, 2010 | Greg Boyd
One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren't you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!"
But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don't you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong."
Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom."
Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise."
The Death of Jesus
It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last.
Jesus never asked for background checks on people before he ministered to them. His life and death reflect an all inclusive love and grace toward all people. Through Christ, God gives a massive bear hug of love and forgiveness around humanity.
When Jesus was on the cross, there were two thieves also being crucified. One thief asked Jesus to “remember” him. Jesus responds, “Today you’ll be with me.” Notice what Jesus did not say during this exchange. He did not interrogate the thief to make sure that he had the right theology or ethics. The thief knew he was a sinner in need of grace and believed that he could find hope in this person hanging on the cross next to him and that is all Jesus needed to know.
This was Jesus’ pattern throughout his ministry. He never asked for background checks on people before he ministered to them. Jesus’ life and death reflect this all inclusive love and grace toward all people. Through Christ, God gives a massive bear hug of love and forgiveness around humanity.
If Jesus reveals a God who is so outrageously generous with his love and acceptance, and if churches are called to reflect the character of Jesus, why does Jesus’ attitude toward the thief on the cross seem so rare in Christianity?
Most communities throughout history are defined by their parameter, which defines who’s in and who’s out, thereby creating an “us verses them” mentality. The same is often true in the church.
But if a community is going to be centered on the Jesus who told the thief he’d be with him, no questions asked, it must be a community that’s defined not by the parameter, but by the center, who is Jesus. That is the difference between a bounded community and a centered community.
The Kingdom is to be a community defined by the center, not the parameter. There is no need for security guards to police the parameter. We hold up the center and together help each other move toward it, conformed to image of Christ.