Have you ever wondered what makes Christian God different? What sets the God of Christian Theism apart from all other conceptions of God? Perhaps you think, well it’s because he’s loving. Or perhaps you think, it is because he is infinite as opposed to the gods of ancient pantheons. Then you think a little harder and you say, well maybe it’s his Trinitarian nature? Maybe it’s because of his grace? Maybe it is because he is wholly independent from his creation and yet personal, unlike the pantheistic conceptions of God. The list may go on and on. But what if I told you that the truly definitive way in which the God of Christian Theism is different, is this: God has scars.
In this simple statement is bound up the very truth of infinite and divine Love. The God of the Bible is the same God, who in Christ, entered into flesh and blood history and died. There are many conceptions of God in the world, but none as scandalous as the one Christians claim to worship. The famous poem of Edward Schillito captures the heart of this claim. He wrote this poem in the wake of destruction brought on by the horrors of the first world war. Someone like Schillito could only wonder how on earth one could still believe in God, let alone a God of love, after suffering the carnage and death of the first world war. Yet in his poem, Jesus of the Scars, he writes:
“If we have never sought, we seek Thee now;
Thine eyes burn through the dark, our only stars;
We must have sight of thorn-pricks on Thy brow;
We must have Thee, O Jesus of the Scars.
The heavens frighten us; they are too calm;
In all the universe we have no place.
Our wounds are hurting us; where is the balm?
Lord Jesus, by Thy Scars we claim Thy grace.
If when the doors are shut, Thou drawest near,
Only reveal those hands, that side of Thine;
We know today what wounds are; have no fear;
Show us Thy Scars; we know the countersign.
The other gods were strong, but Thou wast weak;
They rode, but Thou didst stumble to a throne;
But to our wounds only God’s wounds can speak,
And not a god has wounds, but Thou alone.”
In Jesus of Nazareth, we see the scandal of the Incarnate God, who allows the very creatures which he formed and made, to put him death. Immanuel, God with us, allows the very hands which he delicately formed in their mother’s wombs to drive spikes through his body and crucify him on a Roman cross. It is a scandal to the Muslim and a joke to the atheist. It is an offense to the Jew and foolishness to the Greek. And yet it is in the blood that is poured out in his death, that he bears the world’s sin. He dies for them. In the horror of the crucifixion, he takes upon himself the suffering and pain of the world. He experiences ultimate god-forsakenness. Humans would never come to him. They hated him. They betrayed him. Yet he did not abandon them. He came to find them. They put to death the one who loved them. And yet in this, the heart of God is set on full display. His infinite and holy love bleeds through the shameful death on a tree. He bears the scars given to him by ones whom he made in his own image. This my friends, is why the God of Christianity is different. He is cruciform. He is not indifferent to human history; he has entered into a world torn apart by sin and enslaved by death. He would endure death to know the ones he made and give them life abundantly. Though our sin has fractured his world and destroyed our fellow image bearers. He would die for us. He would take our death. He would suffer for us. He would suffer with us. “And not a god has wounds, but Thou alone.” This is cruciform love of God.