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Power in the Blood: Oscar Romero, A Failed Atonement Theory and the Inner Seed of Liberty

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Growing up our church was a rather stoic place.  On Sundays we sang stoic songs.  There were only a few foot-tapping songs in the hymnal and only on rare occasions did we ever get close to any hand clapping.  There was however one song that seemed to get the feet tapping, bodies swaying and hands colliding every time…”There is Power in the Blood.”  I will never forget the lyrics…”Would you be free from the burden of sin? There’s power in the blood, power in the blood; Would you o’er evil a victory win? There’s wonderful power in the blood. There is power, power, wonder working power In the blood of the Lamb; There is power, power, wonder working power In the precious blood of the Lamb.”  I loved that song…and if I am honest with myself I probably still do when my ears run across it.  The earliest understandings I had of the death and atonement of Jesus flowed out of songs like this.  I believed that the blood of Jesus was required to satisfy the wrath of God against a sinful planet.  This understanding of the death of Jesus is called substitutionary atonement.  The problem with this violent understanding of the atonement is that it is predicated on a wrathful God that is unworthy of our love and an idea that blood is required as atonement in the economy of God…you know the eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth type stuff.  It seems like crazy bullshit to me now…but I believed it then.  Oscar Romero changed my mind.

 

In the streets of San Salvador, El Salvador amongst the poor, one can feel the presence of Oscar Romero.  When I first heard Romero talking about his blood being a seed of liberty, I knew that the idea of blood and seeds was stirring up new thoughts about the atonement in me.  What if we were to look at the life of Jesus in the same way that we look at the life of Oscar Romero?  Romero was the Archbishop of El Salvador who bound his life to the oppressed and ultimately gave his life in service to them.  The sacrifice of one’s life is at the center of the gospel.  Jesus and Romero reveal to us that the blood is not a substitution…but rather an invitation to come and give your life for the marginalized so that you might find the salvation that comes from giving your life for others.

 

It is not enough to look back and assume that the gospel of Jesus requires nothing of you in the present because you believe an atonement has already happened…on the contrary it requires that you give everything.  There is still power in the blood and that blood is yours.  I pray that in discovering the inner seed of liberty that we all have to give…we will also discover the power of blood within and without.

 

Amen.

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