With God’s robust oneness in mind, sin is divisive schism, a corruption of the primordial vocation for unity with the creator. Sin drives against the grain of the universe, alienating us from God, each other, and from our very selves. Sin ignores and profanes God’s uniqueness through idolatry. It also twists God’s robust, simple unity into schism, the demonization of otherness, and the construction of false unities.
Instead of welcoming the other, we are far more likely to crucify her. We gather like-minded people around us to construct our own “unified” kingdoms, to build up thick walls between “us” inside and “them” outside, losing sight of God’s uniqueness and making a mockery of his simplicity.
When sin enters the created order, infecting and affecting it on every level, God responds with distance until true unity can be achieved. Just as God’s righteousness takes the appropriate redemptive mode of wrath when confronted with sin as unrighteousness, in the face of these aforementioned abominations, God’s unity takes on the righteous character of distance and separation, through banishment and exile.
We see this first in Genesis 3, when Adam and Eve are banished from the Garden of Eden and the creation itself is cursed as God “pushes it away,” so to speak, from his shalom and presence. According to Walton, “the biggest problem of the Fall was…the loss of access to the presence of God…the overwhelming loss was not paradise; it was God.”
Nevertheless, God remains merciful in his strong reaction to schismatic sin, for he patiently refuses to sentence human sin with the full and permanent exile it deserves. He calls the nation of Israel back from the partial exile into full fellowship with himself through the covenants and Torah.
However, their hardhearted divisiveness leads them to eschew repeatedly the loving faithfulness of their God. In a righteous response, God distances their schismatic sin from his perfect unity once more through the exile of the nation.
Yet God is still merciful to them in the Diaspora. He promises to make a new covenant with his people, fulfilling his creative purposes through the True Israelite, the Son of God, Jesus the Messiah.
The saving work of Christ is that of re-unification, of reconciliation, and of at-one-ment.
At the incarnation, the Trinity stretches as the Son assumes human flesh and meets humanity in its state of partial exile. “God became what we are so that we might become what He is.” The One God enters our midst as Jesus Christ and pushes us to the side in our perverted attempts to exile others and create our false unities.
“Because our evil case otherwise meant our inevitable destruction, God willed to make it His own in Jesus Christ. What we are He Himself willed to become, in order to take and transform it from within, to make of it something new, the being of man reconciled with Himself” (CD IV/1, 242).
When the Son comes down to assume human flesh, he also brings human flesh into the Godhead. Without succumbing to sin’s siren call, he is fully affected by it, bringing sinful nature into the life of God and thereby intensifying the divine reaction against it. The one ultimately worthy to exile is now also the one ultimately worthy of exile.
At the cross, the Trinity stretches to the utmost as the Son of God subjects himself to the full exile in place of schismatic sinners for the sake of their salvation. He bears the righteous consequences of the perversions of God’s unity by going into the far country of death and the grave. According to Barth, “in the place of all men he [Christ] has himself wrestled with that which separates them from him. He has himself borne the consequence of this separation to bear it away” (CD IV/1, 247). At the death of Christ, the Trinity has stretched to its limit, and yet humanity is left in a state of partial exile as before.
At the resurrection, the exile of the Son of God is followed by his vindication as the Savior of the world as he is raised up from the grave and brought back from the far country of death. Through this movement of the Son into the utmost exile and back again, sin itself as the perversion of God’s unity is offered up to destruction:
“In the suffering and death of Jesus Christ it has come to pass that in his own person he has made an end of us as sinners and therefore of sin itself by going to death as the One who took our place as sinners. In his person he has delivered up us sinners and sin itself to destruction” (CD IV/1, 253).
Redemption and (re-)creation meet in the resurrection, for the Son has been brought back from the ultimate exile, and all humanity who is united to him by grace through faith, everyone who is therefore in Christ, gets caught up with the Son in salvation as the return to the simple and unique unity of the triune God.
The people of God are set free from their perverse desires to divide and create false unities. Instead, they are placed in right, unified relationship with themselves, each other, creation, and God, who is eternally recognized and worshiped as God alone.
In fulfillment of his creative purposes, God saves his people in Christ to robust unity with himself, each other, and the entire creation.
…to be continued.