Christ as Curse

“Jesus Christ is Lord, not a Swear Word.”

It is not an uncommon sight to see these words plastered on trailers parked on the side of the highway in the Southeast. Being as I grew up on the Jersey shore, it took me some time to realize that a “swear word” or a “cuss word” was, in fact, a curse word. Once that was settled, I grew accustomed to the sightings.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not advocating the breaking of the third commandment. I cringe when I hear the Lord’s name used as an expletive, as anyone who knows and love the Lord naturally should; however, as I plodded through my study of Galatians this week, those words took on a different meaning.

For as many as are of the works of the law are under a curse – for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of law to perform them”…Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us – for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree,” in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles so that we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith (Galatians 3: 10 & 13-14).

His name is to be hallowed and blessed namely because He became a swear word, taking upon himself the curse of all the ages. 

When I hear curse, I think *&%$, four letter words written in symbols and used to express strong emotion.

It is significant to note that when the Galatians, an audience seeped in the Torah, heard the word curse, they likely heard something very different. Blessing and Curse, a central paradigm to God’s interaction with His people in the Torah, meant something far deeper than a few words spoken in a moment of passion. Blessing meant life and purpose and meaning and curse meant nothing less than pain, separation and death.  The book of Deuteronomy is littered with the promises of rich blessing attached to obedience, “that you days may be long, that it may be well with you.”

Remember, Paul is having to write a corrective letter to the Church at Galatia partly because of their incredibly strong commitment to and pride in the Torah. These Jewish converts had been raised hearing the Law and knowing their place of privilege as the people to whom the Law had been entrusted.Thus, Paul quotes twice from Deuteronomy in these few verses.

That being said, it would have been a huge shock to the system for the Galatians to read “Christ became a curse for us,” in a letter from their spiritual father. It would have been akin to seeing “Jesus Christ is a Swear Word” plastered on a trailer in the Southeast. Nothing short of shocking. It would have forced a double or even triple take.

Paul is having to use the full force of their heritage and knowledge of the law and the complex systems of blessing and curses that were laid out in the Torah to remind them how shocking the gospel truly is. The gospel is not “Say this and don’t say this; do this and don’t this; practice this holiday and don’t practice that holiday,” which is what the Galatians had been bewitched into thinking, occasioning this strong letter from Paul. The Gospel that Paul is desperately trying to remind them of is this: Christ took on the conglomeration of every curse written about in the Law that you might be blessed.

In Christ’s life, the book of Deuteronomy was turned on its head. The One, the only One, who had completely and earnestly obeyed God’s commandments, thus the Only one truly entitled to “prolonged days” and “that it may go well with you,” had become the curse. It did not go well with Him. His days were truncated, not prolonged.

All our blessing derives from Him becoming curse. It is as shocking today as it was to the church in Galatia. Oh, that I might remember Him who became curse that we might become righteousness. This truth, the gospel, shocks all my merit-based sensibilities and overturns human reasoning, and it continues to give us a Living Hope.

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