United in Christ
“For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.”
– Hebrews 2:16-17
By now you’ve likely seen, or heard about, the nightmare that played out on a United Airlines flight in Chicago. If you haven’t heard about this, here’s a quick synopsis: David Dao, a doctor from Kentucky and his wife were traveling home. They had boarded the plane with the tickets they purchased and had already taken their seats, along with everyone else on the flight. United had tried and tried to get passengers to volunteer to give up their seats so some United staff could get to the destination city for a flight the following day. No passengers took the offer, so United picked, at random, four people to be removed from the flight. Dao and his wife were two of the four selected. Dao refused to get off the plane and security was called. Security, for lack of a better term, roughed the man up, knocking him unconscious and dragged him from the plane. Video of the incident went viral, and has headlined news for the past several days.
In the days since the incident, some media outlets dug into the doctor’s past to reveal a troubled history regarding felony charges that came due to poor decisions. This history had absolutely nothing to do with the incident at the airport, but shines a negative light on this man. I won’t address the poor ethics behind that type of reporting, but I wanted to bring this detail to light to make the point I want to make in this article. A man with a sinful and troubled past was the man who was beaten and removed from the flight. And it could’ve been any of us, all of whom have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23).
Imagine for a moment that on that same flight was a man who had met and talked with Dao earlier, and learned about that troubled past in their conversation. As things unfolded and Dao was about to be removed from the plane, this man stood up instead and volunteered to take his place by stepping in front of the blows and getting knocked out and dragged off in place of Dao. Knowing the sinful past, knowing the humiliation and suffering he would encounter for steeping in place of Dao… He sacrificed it all so Dao could, “go home” (words that Dao was caught on tape uttering after he somehow got back on the plane later). It makes me wonder whether or not the specialness of that hypothetical action would garner as much, or any, attention from the media.
Nonetheless, the hypothetical scenario I detailed above is exactly what Jesus actually did for each and every one of us. Only instead of a plane, he chose the cross. Instead of a final destination of an earthly home, Christ cleared the narrow path that leads to eternal life (cf. Mt 7:13-14). Jesus took on the punishment, the humiliation and ultimately died in our place, for the transgressions we have in our lives. In doing that Jesus fulfilled what was prophesied in Isaiah 53:5, “But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.”
Jesus Christ, by His sacrifice, is the propitiation for our sins. Propitiation means to appease, or make oneself appealing to God. The only way we can do that is to cover over our sins with the life of another, and that’s atonement. Jesus’ life was offered in place of our own. By uniting ourselves to Christ Jesus in baptism, we take refuge in Him and are covered over by His blood (cf. Rom 6:5-11). Even though I was, and still am the chief of all sinners (cf. 1 Tim 1:15), and because of the sin that separates me from God, I am considered His enemy (cf. James 4:4). However, I have an unwavering belief, and am blessed beyond measure because even in my state of my enmity with God, He loved me enough to send His one and only Son to die for the forgiveness of my sins (Jn 3:16-17, Rom 5:8). Because of my belief and obedience to His commands, I have gained access to Christ’s atoning blood. With that atoning blood, I can now be a pleasing aroma to God (cf. 2 Cor 2:15)
I know it may seem like quite a stretch to take what happened on that United flight in Chicago and flip it around into a lesson, but I think it’s important to be able to look at current events through the lens of the cross. Instead of asking, “What would Jesus do?” in these situations, I try to apply what Jesus did.
As always, if you have any questions about this article, or how to become a Christian, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. God loves you, and so do I!