Damon Linker, thinking about the meaning of dying for another, understands the self-sacrificial love of God for broken humanity through the example of a father, Thomas Vander Woude, who dove into a cesspool to save his Down Syndrome son from drowning in sewage. He saved his son’s life, but died in the process, his lungs filled with piss and shit, all to rescue his boy from death. Like Jesus did for us. Linker:
Christianity teaches that the creator of the universe became incarnate as a human being, taught humanity (through carefully constructed lessons and examples of his own behavior) how to become like God, and then allowed himself to be unjustly tried, convicted, punished, and killed in the most painful and humiliating manner possible — all as an act of gratuitous love for the very people who did the deed.
Why does Vander Woude’s act of sacrifice move us? Maybe because in freely dying for his son, he gives us a fleeting glimpse of the love that moves the sun and the other stars.
Which is to say, he gives us a fleeting glimpse of God.
That might sound outlandish to atheists. But for my money, it comes closer to the truth, and does more to explain the otherwise irreducibly mysterious experience of noble sacrifice than any competing account.
Don’t buy it? I dare you to come up with something better.
As our priest was reading the Good Friday matins in church, and he got to the part in which the Roman soldiers scourged Jesus, my 10 year old son Lucas walked over to me, a look of intense concern on his face. He motioned for me to bend down to hear him.
“That’s horrible!” he whispered.
“It is,” I said. “And He did it because He loved us.”
We are almost at the joy of Easter … but don’t forget at what price that joy was purchased.