Giving Cash to the Poor

As we approach the end of the year, we often like to make some suggestions about good giving opportunities, based on research of what has been effective in making an impact in the lives of the poor. While we have a page with giving suggestions, I wanted to write a little bit about a giving opportunity that has received  some attention lately: giving cash.

Giving cash may be the simplest way to help the poor, but it has some very interesting implications. It may be a very old way to help someone, yet it has received a lot of attention lately, due to some more recent reasons. First, giving cash has typically been a high-overhead venture, as you need to pay people salaries to distribute money. With advances in cell-phone based payments, organizations like GiveDirectly are able to transfer money with extremely low overhead. Second, there has been significant, detailed, and careful research on how people respond to being given cash, with very positive evidence and robust results.

I believe that the success of giving cash should cause us to stop and think about how and why we give. While this has been touted as the result of economic research, the basic premise and motivation for giving cash is surprisingly simple. If we want to do for others what we want done to us, it behooves us to turn the tables, and think how we might want to be helped if we were in need. If you were in severe poverty, and someone had $500 to help you out, how would you like them to help you? I think most of us would agree that we would probably choose cash as our first option. This would give us the most freedom in using the money for exactly what we need. We might use some to buy food and some to pay for school fees for our kids. If we needed shots or medicine, we could use some money for that. And maybe we could save some of it. Generally speaking, if someone has money and really wants to help us with our most pressing needs, most recipients would naturally say that they have a better knowledge of what they really need than the donor, and the freedom of cash would be the best way to help.

If we think about this from the perspective of a recipient, this seems quite obvious, yet as donors we rarely choose this option. Why is this? Why would we almost all choose cash as recipients, yet choose completely differently when giving? This seems like a strange contradiction. I think there are several good and bad reasons for this discrepancy.

First, we may often have a natural reaction that this will create dependencies. However, the great success of cash transfer programs should force us to challenge this reaction. In fact, dependency itself is not negative, it is actually positive. If we look at any successful organization, society, or group, you will find that people are heavily dependent on each other. However, there are harmful side effects that are sometimes (mis)labeled as “dependency”, like perverse incentives, displacement, lack of accountability, and market crowding which definitely should be carefully considered and avoided. But simply “avoiding dependency” without a more nuanced consideration of how the poor respond to donations and incentives can easily lead to the wrong response.

Second, probably the worst reason that we might avoid giving cash, is that it is not that exciting. Videos of wells with fresh water, children racing to school, and smiling medical recipients is certainly more engaging than someone who has received a cash transfer and used it for 10 different parts of their budget that were lacking.

The next reason one might avoid cash is that we claim to know what recipients need more than the recipients themselves. This generally suggests a fairly arrogant and paternalistic attitude. Again, turning the tables, if you were a recipient, you may well be grateful for whatever you receive, but the idea that someone thousands of miles away knows what you need better than yourself, may feel a little demeaning.

However, this isn’t always a bad reason. While it may be difficult to avoid the paternalism accusation, it is possible to do enough research to find opportunities to help, that may actually be better than what that someone might choose for themselves. In fact, we probably have personal experience with making bad financial decisions, where outside objectivity might have helped. And sometimes we even constrain our own immediate financial freedom, with tools like retirement funds, for the sake of our future self. But, we must approach this motivation very carefully. It is a very high bar to really claim you know what other people need better than they do.

Finally, probably the most legitimate and substantial reason to give to something other than cash is the social reason. Playing the table-turning game again, let’s remember that there isn’t just one person in poverty when we give. Imagine for instance if instead of being personally given $500, a donor said that they were going to give $5,000 to 10 of your neighbors. Now how would we like to see the money spent? This could clearly lead to very different preferences. Obviously many things, like food and clothing, might be very appealing for yourself, but it doesn’t do you much good when your neighbor spends the money that way. On the other hand, there many things that your neighbors or community might purchase that would really benefit you. Spending money to prevent infectious disease and building infrastructure like well/water or schools are the types of community improvements that might not be your own first priority of your own money, but would really be helpful if the money is being distributed or shared with others as well. And, in fact, efforts based on the collective needs of a community, fighting infectious disease, providing clean water, and improving education are some the most effective and helpful types of programs we can invest in.

I personally prefer other giving opportunities over giving cash, and I have mentioned a few considerations of this type of giving, but there are definitely some very compelling reasons to donate with cash. It is extremely low overhead, the poor can directly receive nearly the full value of your donation with hardly any administrative expense. It is a very “safe” and well-established mechanism as well. And finally, if you believe that offering the gift of freedom, personal-responsibility, and opportunity is the greatest of gifts, it is hard to beat the freedom and opportunity that cash in the hands of the poor will give them.

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Adventures in Transition, Part 2

As I wrote previously, our faith family is in a time of major transition. It is both an exciting and scary adventure. It is also very insightful and as we move from one phase of this transition to another I feel like we have grown both individually and collectively. Just like an individual, a faith family should never stop growing or become stagnant. Change itself is uncomfortable and not something we will all voluntarily choose. I also don’t think that most of us voluntarily choose to settle into a rut. It is something that just happens over time. Things that you might have thought more about at one time become common, habitual and once in a while it is good to have things shaken up a little bit. While change isn’t comfortable, if we respond to it in the right way it can lead to healthy growth. And pardon me as rant for a moment, by growth I DO NOT mean people filling seats, which is probably the most common way to measure the growth of a church. What I have seen in our family is growth in spiritual maturity, in relationships, and in serving others. I’d much rather have this kind of growth than be part of a faith family that is big in attendance but shallow when it comes to the essentials of spiritual life. Rant over. 😉
Here are a few of the gems that I’ve observed in our faith family:

1.) A healthy faith family prays, lots. They pray both together and individually.  One of the best results of this transition for us is a campaign called “Take Fifteen” that encourages every person to commit 15 minutes each day to praying for our body. It’s an easy commitment and we were even given specific prayer requests so it was not hard to fill that time. I hope this continues even after this transition. Prayer is powerful! This isn’t rocket science but is always a good reminder.

2.) A healthy faith family communicates properly. Gossip can do terrible, terrible damage more quickly than I think most realize. When a complaint or rumor has come up rather than spread it to neighbors and close friends the party concerned has been encouraged to take these concerns directly to the leadership or individuals involved. It has meant a LOT of meetings but it has also meant a lot of misunderstandings cleared up and further hurt avoided. Again, not a novel idea but it’s so easy to fall into gossip if we aren’t careful.

3.) A healthy faith family is quick to forgive. As I mentioned in my last post people respond to change in different ways. This is bound to cause misunderstand and assumptions to be made. As people are learning to communicate properly they are also learning to be quick to forgive and quick to ask for forgiveness. This has been one of my favorite things to observe.

4.) A healthy faith family respects other points of views. In any group with more than, well, one person you are bound to have disagreements and conflicting points of view. When it comes to the non-deal breaking theological issues we have seen many views expressed in our faith family. I have appreciated the way that we as a group have respected each other. While we might not all agree, we still love and respect each other and really, we will not know the answers to some of these questions until we can ask God directly so why cause strife in a relationship about it?

5.) A healthy faith family encourages each individual to use their gifts to bless the whole. We all have different talents. Not all of us can play the guitar, preach a sermon, say an eloquent prayer, or lead a bible study. However cleaning the upstairs bathrooms, coordinating the speaking schedule, and keeping the driveway from icing over are all just as important and it has been wonderful to see so many step up and say, “I can help out by doing that.”

6.) A healthy faith family remembers who its true leader is. At the end of this transition we will have some new leadership but really, our true leader has never changed and this whole process has been such a good reminder of that. No one individual makes up the whole faith family or should ever be the face of it. We are all members with Christ as our head and he never changes.

2014 Book Reviews

I didn’t read a lot of books in 2014. For the latter half of 2014, I have been involved in searching for a new pastor for our church, and helping to lead the church through that process. Consequently, I spent some time reading specifically about the search process and lots of resumes. Some of these books were very short; which actually seemed quite appropriate for the subject. Here are the books I read (at least partially), roughly in order of preference:

The Locust Effect by Gary Haugen – This book received a lot of attention in its genre, so I started to read it. I haven’t finished this book yet, but I have been very impressed with it. I came to the book with a bit of skepticism about the difficulty of showing that criminal justice work can really compete with other charitable efforts in efficacy of helping the poor, but I will certainly admit that I found Haugen’s statistics, research, and arguments are very compelling. This is naturally a subject where it is very hard to precisely determine cause and effect, but the stories of outrageous injustice against the poor, and the case for providing a better legal system (that we take for granted) is powerful.

Pagan Christianity – I read this book, as we were in the midst of a church transition, and I wanted to re-examine some of the foundational ideas of how church works. This book provides some provocative critiques of practices of the modern church, and how they have likely originated more from various cultural (and even pagan) traditions, than from scriptures. While I think we can positively redeem many of modern church practices that are criticized, the critiques and suggestions are indeed very valuable for shaping a church around Biblical guidance instead of just cultural expectations.

When the Word Leads Your Pastoral Search: Biblical Principles and Practices to Guide Your Search – This is a longer book about finding a pastor, that was helpful for specifics of things like handling resumes and coordinating a candidating visit. I had some chuckles at how this book was obviously written specifically for Calvary Chapel churches and their culture, including addressing topics like whether or not you could ever consider a pastor who has given a topical sermon at some point in their life (fortunately grace can be extended for such a grievous sin). However, beyond these rather amusing idiosyncrasies, the book offered some good practical details on many of the processes involved, which was certainly beneficial.

Overrated by Eugene Cho – The core message of this book is certainly important and noteworthy: that we need to be engaged in living sacrificial lives, and not just talking about it. However, I didn’t really enjoy the style of this book. The author seemed to be trying too hard to be trendy in his references to social and popular media. The author transparently offered some good life experiences learning to live out his faith, but the core message didn’t really take that long to say, and almost felt like a greatly expounded tweet.

The New Breed – Second Edition: Understanding & Equipping the 21st Century Volunteer – I read this with church leadership to consider how to recruit more volunteers. This had some good tips on how to engage and encourage with different generations, but overall wasn’t particularly memorable.

The greatest Victim of revenge is the Avenger

With ISIS making headlines and recent remembrance of the 9/11 attack, our attention is again on fighting terrorism. For Christians, our response should be guided by scriptures. One of the most innate responses to attacks, and stories of beheadings, is to seek revenge. But, one of the clearest directives in the Bible it for us to not seek revenge (Deut 32:35, and quoted in Rom 12:19), but rather to love our enemies (Matt 5:44):

Deut 32:35: It is mine to avenge; I will repay.
Matt 5:44: But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.

The principle is clear and unambiguous. While Christians often fail to live out scriptures, there is generally at a least a desire to be obedient. However, this is one teaching of Christ, where Christians actually seem unashamed to boldly and blatantly defy and contradict Christ.

One of the strategies for some is to try to twist Romans 13:4 into an excuse for governments’ to enter the business of vengeance:

For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.

Out of context, this might indeed sound like a justification for vengeance, but with more context, it becomes clear that this is definitely not the case, for several reasons. First, starting from the beginning of chapter 13, it is clear that Paul is not addressing leaders or government, but rather subjects (leaders can learn from this passage, but only as long as they understand the context). We can not understand Paul’s words as a directive to leaders or governments to seek revenge, when he is not even addressing them. Instead, Paul is indicating that the government’s actions, as they pursue the common good of the people may legitimately engage in punishment (not as the one how is being satisfied by revenge) and taxation, and in doing so, may inflict punishment on you, to deter and restrain you from others, and this punishment may also serve God’s purpose in inflicting divine judgement. However, the vengeance or wrath mentioned is not man’s, they are acting as “agents”, not as a divine judge.

This verse also can not be used as a directive, since it is completely insufficient in declaring what crimes deserve what revenge. Deterrent justice, the legitimate form of justice that governments can and should pursue for the well-being of their citizens, can be empirically determined (we can verify how much punishment it take to significantly deter crime). However, when we endeavor to seek revenge, the only clear measure of the appropriate level of punishment for crimes that the Bible offers is that every crime is deserving of punishment beyond repayment, yet we are shown grace. How should a government’s endeavor enact this? And isn’t the greatest offense we can commit, to reject God? Should governments then started punishing anyone who is not a Christian? This didn’t turn out to well in the Crusades, one of the darkest points in Christian history. While government’s may inflict deterring punishment, that may be used by God for His judgement, it is absurdly unjustifiable for governments to actually take up the divine act of seeking revenge themselves, and it completely contradicts the clear Biblical message that vengeance (the act of deciding the deserved recompense for offenses) belongs solely to God.

Not only is revenge clearly condemned in scriptures, the desire to see others avenged for their wrongs is fundamentally in contradiction to the very foundation of the Christianity, the grace we find at the cross. The reality is that we were deserving of a punishment what we can never payback, and yet God, while we were still in sin, showed as grace. To turn around, and demand divine punishment on someone who is no more deserving of God’s wrath than we are, is to trample on that grace, to reject Christ, and the cross he bore.

I am not pacifist either. The reason I am not, is that I see pacifism is a form of legalism. While Jesus definitely taught us not to violently respond to enemies (it doesn’t get any more non-violent than loving your enemies), Jesus also clearly taught (particular in Matthew 12), the purpose of the God’s laws was not to define a mechanical process to satisfy God, but to reveal his purpose. When he make pacifism a mechanism of obedience, rather than a revelation of his purpose and vision of peace, we risk legalistically following a set of motions instead of looking towards the goal. However, in defense of pacifism, in practice, this actually seems to be relatively rare problem, as we most always err on the side violence as humans, instead of sacrificial peace.

I believe this gives a proper framework for understanding Romans 13, and government’s legitimate role in punishing people. In isolation, it is impossible to justify a punishment that is clearly harming a person. In the broader context of society, the purpose (rather than just the mechanism) of Jesus teaching, the ethic of loving others, loving the whole community, it be comes quite clear how punishing one person benefits the greater society. We can prevent future crimes, and in doing so we are benefiting the community, the society. This doesn’t need to be motivated by a desire to avenge past wrongs, but rather motivated by the legitimate and loving act of protecting future potential victims.

With the whole of scripture in view, Romans 13 isn’t a new revelation of a new ethic, or a new exception. It is in fact, simply a recognition that a well-functioning government that cares for its citizens (driven by Christians wholly devoted to Christ’s ethic, or even non-Christians who also recognize the need for collective actions and providing victims from injustice, which actually was the case of the government Paul was under), may be punishing (and taxing people), and stern warning that evil behavior may earn you a legitimate punishment from that government. There is nothing fundamentally new here, Paul is completely aligned with Christ here. He is not trying to correct a failure in the Christian ethic, he is simply expressing a legitimate expression of the ethic, and how it may affect us.

It is indeed tempting to think that Christ’s teaching, His ethic needs to be excepted for governments. I used to think the same thing. However, as I have studied scripture more, I have realized Christ’s teaching needs no limits placed on them. They are wholly perfect, consistently applicable to every situation, to all people, individuals, groups, societies, and governments, without error, never falling short of guiding us rightly. We don’t have to come up with fixes for Christ, where He didn’t quite foresee how His teaching wouldn’t quite work right for larger governing bodies. As Abraham Kuyper said:

“There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!”

The recognition of how dangerous the urge for revenge is in perpetuating violence is why the Just War principles were articulated (by Augustine and later expanded by others). When the only thing needed to justify war is a feeling of righteous superiority and a desire for revenge, virtually every war, battle, and atrocity can be justified. It is only through an objective analysis of the whether war will actually yield better results for the common good of all, that combat can really be justified.

So should we bomb ISIS? If we have learned anything from the last two decades of middle east conflicts, it is that fighting terrorists is incredibly difficult, costly, and complicated, and can often produce the opposite of the intended effect. We are completely ignorant if we think there is some simple way to take out terrorists, so I certainly don’t claim to know the best tactical approach forward. But I do know that the values that drive our strategy our critical. When we take up arms out of revenge, we can be quite certain that we will indeed succeed at the immoral and unethical pursuit that we undertake. And as title, states the greatest victim of revenge is the avenger, and indeed our hunger for revenge has cost hundreds of billions of dollars (if not trillions), as well as thousands of lives, and to pursue revenge now will cost us more.

Again, I don’t know the right tactical strategy, and we are equally at fault if we ignore the oppression and sufferings of the thousands who have been persecuted and displaced at the hands of ISIS. And we may very well be close to erring on the side of doing too little, in this case, and ignoring their plight (it seems very likely that we have done too little for the sake of the oppressed Syrians). But, we can only embark on truly ethical, moral, and just tactics of armed combat, when we start with a foundation of having first forgiven, and recognizing that the death of any human, including a terrorist is a great tragedy. To deny that a fellow human needs God’s grace exactly as much as myself, is to deny the cross itself.

The greatest victim of revenge is the avenger. We, unwittingly, in our hunger for revenge, become our own victim of bitterness, and in our pursuit, costing ourselves the most. And God, in His infinite foresight, undertook the most ironic, and beautiful twist of fulfilling this. As the rightful true avenger, He willingly became the true greatest victim. Indeed, the greatest Victim of revenge is the Avenger.

Reading List 2014

books

I’m several months late but I thought I’d share with you what has been on my reading list this year. It’s an ambitious list and may spill over into 2015. For the books I have finished I’ll include a brief review. I’d love to hear about what’s on your reading list too!

1. The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got That Way by Amanda Ripley
I will write a whole post on this book soon. What an interesting read! I highly recommend reading this book no matter what form of education you have chosen for your children.

2. Wonder by R.J. Palacio
This is a quick and entertaining story about a boy, born with a severe facial birth defect, who is attending public school for the first time in his life…and at middle school no less! I picked this book up because I had heard such great things about it from teachers and parents alike. It’s a great story about good friends, facing challenges, and not allowing the difficulties we encounter define us but rather shape our character. This is will be a book my children read when they are a little bit older.

3. A Heart for Freedom by Chai Ling
An autobiography about one of the primary student leaders of the Tienanmen Square protests and the massacre that followed. She shares her whole story from childhood to present day. I found the section about the events at Tienanmen Square the most interesting mainly because I knew so little about the uprising and the politics involved. Ling flees China as a most wanted fugitive and eventually becomes a Christian and starts an exciting and legitimate foundation to fight female gendercide in China.

4. Seven: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker
I’m almost finished with this book but the chapter I’m currently on is the most convicting and personally challenging so I’ve slowed down my reading a lot in order to process the conviction I’m feeling. Too often I read a good book and the information remains just that, information…head knowledge. Hatmaker’s writing is enjoyable, very funny, and approachable. She does not use guilt or flowery language to cajole her reader into making changes. She simply and honestly shares her experiences and thoughts and leaves the reader to make their own personal applications. That’s what I’m trying to do.

5. Just Moms Complied by Melanie Springer Mock & Rebekah D. Schneiter
I stumbled across this book accidentally at church and I’m SO glad I did. I thought it was going to be a “How To” book about conveying the ambiguous concepts of justice to our children. Instead it is a compilation of (mostly) blog posts from (mostly) Mennonite and Quaker authors who (mostly) live in the Pacific Northwest and are wrestling with how to teaching their children how to love, live, and think like Jesus, namely how to care for the least, our environment, and live a life of non-violence. They don’t give five steps to make your kids love justice, they just share their daily revelations and struggles. I found each chapter encouraging and refreshing and while I didn’t always agree with the authors I longed to discuss the ideas with someone. This would be a great book for a moms’ or parents’ group to read and discuss.

6. Pursuing Justice by Ken Wystma
After Kris’s great review of this book here how could I not add it to my reading list? 😉

7. Stiff by Mary Roach
Somewhere, I think on NPR, I heard a great review of this book and it’s a New York Times Bestseller. I hope it doesn’t disappoint.

8. The Beloved Disciple by Beth Moore
Okay, confession time, I have never done a Beth Moore bible study or read one of her books. Gasp! Since I’m still here typing and not burnt to a crisp from a lightening bolt I’m guessing that despite what our Christian culture might think that’s not a mortal sin. But seriously I don’t have anything against BM, I just have never had the opportunity to participate in one of her studies. I’ve heard great things and I found this book on my mother-in-law’s collection so I thought I’d see what all the fuss is about, plus I’ve always wanted to do a study on John.

9. The Educated Child by Bennett, Finn, Jr., Cribb, Jr.
I may not read this whole book. It’s thick…like 600+ pages! I intend to use it more like a reference book as my kids dive further into the public education system. I am SO thankful for the great school they go to and the unique education they are getting BUT just because they are going to school doesn’t mean that I don’t have a huge role to play in their education. I want to use this book to help guide me as I fill in the gaps and hopefully help my children be well educated children.

10. Overrated by Eugene Cho
Our community group voted to read this book together. We will discuss chapter one next week. I listened to his TEDx talk and am excited to work through this book as a group. I don’t think it’s going to be easy, he is pretty hard hitting from the beginning, but usually growth isn’t easy.

11. Interrupted by Jen Hatmaker
Our church is in the midst of a huge transition and this book feels like an appropriate read.

12. The Mary Russell Series by Laurie R. King
These books are my purely for pleasure books. I’m part of a little book club (very little, as in two people) and this is the current series we are reading and discussing. Sherlock Holmes has retired and taken to bee keeping and solving the occasional mystery for his brother. He crosses paths with an orphaned and outcast teenage girl (Mary) whose wit and insightfulness just might match his own. They form a partnership and eventually a friendship while they recover kidnapped children, evade murderers, and prevent political coups.
King is a smart writer who really does her homework. Even though I am reading for pleasure I feel like I am learning with these books. The series is long so we are just reading a few:
The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, A Letter of Mary,O Jerusalem, The Game, Pirate King
I’m currently on The Game, which also happens to be my favorite so far.

13. The Maze Runner Series by James Dashner
These are fast reads, somewhere in the genre with The Hunger Games but not as well written or compelling. The first book is by far the best. I read all the books because I was hoping they would continue to improve with each book. Sadly they don’t. Again, entertaining but little more. The movie for the first book is comes out this month.

Welcome Back…To Me!

It’s been a long time since I (Nikki) wrote a blog post, since March 2012 to be exact! Kris has added a lot of great content to this blog in the last two and a half years, including a new name. There have been times when I’ve been tempted to write a post but my menus and little everyday posts seemed insignificant posted next to posts about fighting malaria and social justice.

But I’ve missed writing regularly…okay, semi-regularly. I have quite a list of things I want to share with you from amazing books I’ve read to fun menu ideas. So Kris and I will attempt to merge our writing styles and create a balanced blog that represents both of us. Can it be done? Is it possible? I guess we will see! 

10 Accomplishments of Christ at the Cross

I want to make a list of some of the different things that Christ accomplished on the cross. It seems to be the tendency of different denominations and time periods to focus more on one, and extol the magnitude of the accomplishment and its implications. However, I believe that great adoration and glory is found not just in the depth of what He did, but in recognition of the breadth of Christ’s accomplishments as well. I attempted to think of distinct achievements, not just different implications of the same achievement. I think if we are to relate these together to a single overarching accomplishment, it would be to glorify God. This is not an exclusive list, just 10 things I thought of, in no particular order, that perhaps you might not have considered before:

  • He took our place for our sins, as a substitutionary atonement, providing legal justification before the Father, satisfying His wrath so that we might be forgiven. This is a major focus of modern protestantism, and for good reasons, the implications of this accomplishment are indeed truly life changing for us.
  • He ransomed us. Matthew 20:28 (and Mark 10:45, 1 Tit 2:6) says he gave his life as a ransom. It is important to note that a ransom is very different than the act of appeasing God’s wrath, as a ransom is paid not to the rescuer (God), but to the captor, which is Satan. Christ’s act of ransoming us was the focus of CS Lewis’s Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, where Aslan offered himself as a ransom directly to the White Witch.
  • He defeated Satan, triumphed over the powers (Col 2:15, Heb 2:14, 1 John 3:8). Jesus triumphed over Satan on the cross. As Hebrews says, He ‘destroy[ed] the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil’. This is often known as “Christus Victor” (Christ is victorious). It is believed that this (or ransom) was the primary focus of the early church.
  • He perfected obedience, sacrificially submitting to the Father (Luke 22:42), pleasing and glorifying the Father (Isaiah 53:10). It is worth noting that this accomplishment has nothing (directly anyway) to do with us, it is purely an act of love and honor directly between the Son and the Father. While we naturally tend to be most interested in what Jesus did that affects us, this act stands above us, demonstrating that not everything God does is for our sake.
  • He satisfied and redefined justice. The natural idea of justice, that someone should be punished for their own crimes, was certainly not demonstrated at the cross, where an innocent man was crucified for the crimes of others. At the cross, Christ revolutionized how we view and understand justice, defining justice, the foundation of His throne (Psalms 89:14), being a justice focused on bringing restoration and freedom, rather than retribution.
  • He became the scapegoat, thus undermining the legitimacy of scapegoating in society. Leviticus 16 talks about the Azazel sacrifice, and Christ fulfilled the sacrificial system with His death. However, scapegoating represents a unique sacrificial act. Rene Girard has explored the implications that this has on society, showing how we grow in conflict, and eventually content ourselves by finding individual(s) that can be blamed for the evils that permeate our society (without actually dealing with the real problems). Christ took on the role of the scapegoat, bringing peace, but also subverted the practice, as the ultimate antithesis of a deserving scapegoat, forcing us to face the real issues (and in doing so, this actually led modern societies to be far more peaceful than ancient societies).
  • He reconciled all things to himself (Col 1:20, 2 Cor 5:18), at the cross, to make peace between God and us, between different peoples (Eph 2:14), for the redemption of His creation. He tore the veil (Matt 27:51), giving us direct access to the throne of God.
  • He made manifestly visible the impact of our sins (1 Pet 2:24). Our transgressions are not evil just by some random arbitrary decree of God, but because they have a real, painful impact on others. Christ took these sins upon himself, visibly demonstrated the pain and consequence that our sins have had on others.
  • He fulfilled the prophecies and covenants (Luke 24:44-46). He fulfilled the prophecies, demonstrating the faithfulness of God, and fulfilled the covenants, satisfying both the people’s requirement, when they couldn’t, and His response.
  • He identified with and become one of the poor and oppressed. Jesus clearly expressed his identity with the poor and oppressed (Matt 25:31-46), but he not only declared solidarity, he actually became poor (2 Cor 8:9) and oppressed (Isaiah 53:7), experiencing the full reality and suffering of the disadvantaged on the cross.

Any that you would add to the list?