I’ve spent most of my life an ignorant Christian.
Until recently, only a handful of lessons regarding faith could be counted as having reached me. To be plain, most of what I heard in church floated from my consciousness the minute I stepped out the front door.
Very little of what I was taught was memorable.
As a freshman at Friends University, I sat in a classroom of about twenty-five people listening to my Basic Christian Beliefs professor, a soft-spoken and plain-dressed pastor named Chris Kettler.
Over several weeks, I’d become accustomed to the manner his quiet voice droned on, a gentle lullaby with little change in pitch or tone. I strained to pay attention — as I often did throughout college — in the hopes I would gather enough information from the lecture to make it appear I’d read the material.
One Fall day, a solitary fragment embedded itself in my brain.
“Some people call it ‘The Big U’, because,” he explained while drawing on the chalkboard, “there are three components to Christianity which demonstrate God’s grace.” As he continued, a light bulb went off in my head.
Everything finally made sense.
I have only recently — some twelve years on — come to understand grace in a real way, yet The Big U has been integrated into my beliefs from the moment Dr. Kettler presented it. Today, I wish to share it in the hopes it may be as enlightening to others as it was to me back then.
Even non-believers know the central figure of Christianity as a man named Jesus of Nazareth, who died on a cross two millenia ago and, according to the faith, rose from the grave three days later as part of God’s reconciliation with all mankind. The Father’s love is said to be expressed in the Son, but how?
The Big U explains God’s work in three simple parts.
(Mark and John begin with Jesus’ baptism)
Without this, obviously, the progression is moot.
In very basic (and understated) terms, Jesus — and, by extension, the Father — is humbled by the cruelty of those who take him prisoner.
A crown of thorns.
A sarcastic sign hanging above his head.
Taunts from passersby.
Though the cross is Christianity’s recognized symbol, Jesus’ death at this midpoint is actually secondary to the first and third, in my opinion. It may seem sacrilegious, considering my beliefs, but lots of people died on crosses or hanging from trees.
The step is important, but victory was not yet achieved.
John 20:1-7, 13-29
Now we have come to a matter of faith: Jesus rose from the dead to walk the Earth again. God proves, in a literal and figurative sense, only He can overcome death.
Further, He offers His children the opportunity to do the same through an act of lifelong devotion, that “whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
This, God’s loving redemption of selfish humanity, is the embodiment of His grace. It is a uniquely Christian doctrine which is, by definition, as much undeserved and unearned as it is freely-given and all-encompassing. He did all the “heavy lifting,” we are asked merely to accept it.
God acted as any parent would.
The Big U is, in short, a Father doing whatever it took to see his kids.