Good Friday is a holy day that we associate with atonement. This is the day that marks Christ’s death on the cross that makes atonement for the sins of humankind. As we read in Ephesians, in Christ Jesus, we who once were far off have been brought near to God by the blood of Christ (2:13)
Atonement can be thought of as “at-one-ment.” It is the way in which the breach between God and humankind created by sin is healed. That healing means not just that God forgives us, but that we receive the medicine of the Holy Spirit to help us become renewed people. Inherent to the renewal of our souls are virtues such as humility, forgiveness, and kindness.
When Paul writes to the Christians in Philippi, part of what he is addressing is the quarrelling between the members of the community there. This quarreling he says, is not consistent with the behavior of people who have been transformed by Christ. Believers are to have “the mind of Christ,” and, if they do, they will regard one another as better than themselves. They may even allow themselves to be wronged by another without seeking reprisal. To show what the mind of Christ looks like, he quotes to them a hymn they sang together:
We call this the kenosis hymn, after the Greek word for “emptying.” In Paul’s use of this hymn, Christ’s humility and self-giving become the model for interaction between believers. Self-aggrandizement within the church is at cross-purposes with the very nature of Christ.
Good Friday, then, isn’t just about the forgiveness of our sins. It’s also about becoming the kind of people who are more like Christ. This means putting away arrogance and self-serving attitudes, forgiving those who have wronged us, and seeking harmony in the church through the realization of God’s will. These are not easy characteristics to cultivate or goals to achieve. They cannot be bought on the cheap. Grace is costly–so costly, in fact, that it meant the death of the incarnate God on the cross.
On Good Friday, let us be thankful not only for the forgiveness of our sins, but for the transformation that takes place in and through the cross.