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From Bethlehem to Calvary - Chapter Five - The Fourth Initiation - The Crucifixion
Salvation is not primarily connected with sin. Sin is a symptom of a condition, and when a man is "truly saved" that condition is offset, and with it the incidental sinful nature. It was this that Christ came to do - to show us the nature of the "saved" life; to demonstrate to us the quality of the eternal Self which is in every man; this is the lesson of the Crucifixion and the Resurrection: the lower nature must die in order that the higher may be manifested, and the eternal immortal soul in every man must rise from the tomb of matter. It is interesting to trace the idea that men must suffer in this world as the result of sin. In the East, where the doctrines of reincarnation and of karma hold sway, a man suffers for his own deeds and sins and "works out his own salvation, with fear and trembling." (Phil. II, 12.) In the Jewish teaching a man suffers for the sins of his forebears and of his nation, and thus gives substance to a truth which is only today beginning to be a known fact - the truth of physical inheritance. Under the Christian teaching, Christ, the perfect man, suffers with God, because God so loved the world that, immanent in it as He is, He could not divorce Himself from the consequences of human frailty and ignorance. Thus humanity gives a purpose to pain, and thus evil is eventually defeated.

The thought and idea of sacrifice for the sins of the people was not the original and basic idea. Originally, infant humanity offered sacrifices to God to appease His wrath, displayed in the elements through storms and earthquakes and physical disasters. When, instinctively, men turned on each other, when they offended and hurt one another, and so transgressed a dimly sensed realization of human relationships and intercourse, sacrifice was offered again to God so that He too would not hurt mankind. Thus little by little [200] the idea grew until, at last, the salvation concept might be briefly summarized in the following terms:

  1. Men are saved from the wrath of God in natural phenomena through animal sacrifices, preceded in still more ancient times by the sacrifice of the fruits of the earth.
  2. Men are saved from God's wrath and from each other by the sacrifice of that which is valued, leading eventually to human sacrifices.
  3. Men are saved by the sacrifice of a recognized Son of God, hence the vicarious at-one-ment, for which the many crucified world Saviors prepared the way for Christ.
  4. Men are definitely saved from eternal punishment for their sins by the death of Christ upon the Cross, the sinner guilty of an unkind word being as much responsible for the death of Christ as the vilest murderer.
  5. Finally, the gradually emerging recognition that we are saved by the living risen Christ - historically presenting to us a goal, and present in each of us as the eternal omniscient soul of man.

Today it is the risen Christ who is emerging into the forefront of men's consciousness, and because of this we are on our way towards a period of greater spirituality and a truer expression of religion than at any other time in the history of man. The religious consciousness is the persistent expression of the indwelling spiritual man, the Christ within; and no outer earthly happenings, and no national situations, no matter how temporarily material they may appear to be in their objectives, can dull or obliterate the Presence of God in us. We are learning that that Presence can be released in us only by the death of the lower nature, and this is what Christ has always proclaimed to us from His Cross. We are realizing increasingly that the "fellowship of His sufferings" means that we mount the Cross with Him and share constantly in the Crucifixion experience. We are coming to the knowledge that the determining factor in human life is love, and that "God is love." (I St. John, IV, 8.) Christ came to show us that love was the [201] motivating power of the universe. He suffered and died because He loved and cared enough for human beings to demonstrate to them the Way that they must go - from the cave of Birth to the mount of Transfiguration, and on to the agony of the Crucifixion - if they too are to share in the life of humanity and become, in their turn, saviors of their fellowmen.

How then shall we define sin? First let us look at the words which are used in the Bible and in theological works and commentaries dealing with the theme of sin, transgression, iniquity, evil, separation. All of these are expressions of man's relation to God and to his fellowmen and, according to the New Testament, these terms - God and our fellowmen - are interchangeable terms. What do these words mean?

The real meaning of the word sin is very obscure. It signifies literally "the one who it is." (Webster's Unabridged Dictionary.) Literally, therefore, the one who is in existence, just in so far as he sets himself up against the divine aspect hidden in himself, is a sinner. Some words by Dr. Grensted are illuminating in this connection. He says:

" 'Men turned away from God,' says Athanasius, 'when they began to give heed to themselves.' Augustine identifies sin with the love of self. Dr. Williams has argued that the underlying principle from which sin arises is to be found in 'the self-assertion of the individual against the herd, a principle which we can only designate by the inadequate titles of selfishness, lovelessness and hate.' And Dr. Kirk declares that 'sin may be said to begin with self-regard.' "
Psychology and God, by L. W. Grensted, p. 136.

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