I’ve grown used to Christian talk about “the blood.” Have you?
We sing songs about it. We have sacraments for it. We speak about it easily, without any real connection to it. We probably don’t even realize how strange it must seem to people outside the faith. This morning, I’m struck by St. John’s mention of the blood early in 1 John.
Because he saw it.
I’ve never witnessed a gruesome death. I’ve never scene a murder or a bloody crime scene in person. I don’t even watch scary movies. The only bloody incident I can call to mind now is from childhood. We were very close friends with our next door neighbors, and they had visitors in town for a few weeks–one of whom was a boy of about 15, a few years older than me at the time. Bored, after several days of vacation in Anderson, SC, he decided to get adventurous and go rollerblading in the streets of my neighborhood. There was, in my neighborhood, a massive hill–basically a 45 degree angle and about 50 yards long–that ended with a stop sign at a perpendicular street.
He roller-bladed down it.
The smart thing to do, when he realized he’d reached a speed he could no longer control and as he approached the foot of the hill, would’ve been to jump the ditch into a neighbor’s lawn. But he tried to make the turn. He wiped out on the asphalt at that unbelievable speed. He hit his head badly and scraped skin from his arms and legs.
Hanging out on the front porch of a house just around the bend, my younger sister Hannah and I heard his blood-curdling screams for help. We saw him trying to get his skates off and stumbling towards us, crying, bleeding. I tried to get to him without really looking at him. We could see even from a distance that the left side of his head was swelling, fast. Now quivering, we reached him and tried to help him up the staircase to the house. The blood made Hannah queasy; it made me weak. We had to try not focus on it so we would feel enough at-ease to be of some use.
And today, as I read 1 John and try to understand what the blood of Christ meant to him, this rather unimportant story is my feeble point of reference. John must have had vivid pictures of His best friend, slaughtered before his eyes, every time he penned the word “blood.” It’s giving weight to his writing for me this morning that rarely comes to mind while hymns are sung.
“But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus [God’s] Son cleanses us from all sin.” 1 John 1:7 (emphasis added)
His friend’s blood. His friend’s Holy, God-given blood, gave John hope and love for the Church and for the lost. He didn’t avoid it. He didn’t get over it. May we not either.
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