A bit harsh?

He was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.

Far be it from me to wade in on the ‘wrath of God was satisfied’ debate (personally I have far less trouble with that line than I do with the idea that anger is outside God’s emotional range – has he never heard of sex trafficking?) but we were with some friends and turned, as you so often do, to reminiscing about Aberystwyth.

One year I was invited to lead Holy Week for the Anglican group of four churches which serve the town. I had to speak at 19 different services, but the climax was the Good Friday All-age service, where I was attempting to get over the idea of ‘punishment’. Gathering the kids out the front at my feet, I asked them if anyone had ever had anything nasty done to them. This was in the days pre our obsession with CRB checks and child abuse: nowadays I might be a bit more hesitant about asking that question. Some of the kids volunteered stories of their sisters being nasty to them, a child at school who had nicked their pencil case, and so on. One youngster told us about the person who sits behind them at school who keeps flicking her ears in lessons.

‘So what do those nasty people deserve?’ I asked hopefully. An angelic-faced child stuck up his hand.

‘Forgiveness?’

They were obviously a well-taught and deeply spiritual congregation, but this wasn’t quite what I was after.

‘Yes, of course it would be good to forgive them’, I conceded, ‘but that isn’t what they deserve, is it? Think about it – they’ve been so nasty to you. They’ve been rude to you, they’ve stolen your stuff, they’ve even flicked your ears – that must really have hurt! So what do they deserve for being so horrid?’

The same little angelic face lit up with comprehension, and the hand shot up.

‘Crucifixion?’

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