Harry Potter. Witchcraft. Superstition. Halloween. Topics that tend to generate a lot of negative buzz in the Christian world. Subject matter that is often feared: and taught to be avoided for any number of reasons. But are our Christian beliefs that far removed from “the dark arts” at times?
We wave the “blood of Jesus” around like a magic wand in prayer, creating ‘hedges of protection’ and using it to fight off demonic strongholds in the spiritual dimension. We cover ourselves in it, apply it to property boundaries, and plead for it to bless our finances and bring healing. It is used for breaking and taking ground for the kingdom and for all kinds of spiritual breakthroughs, both personal and corporate.
A life of folly
I have had a lot of experience in prayer groups and teams that have “applied” the blood of Jesus in all these ways. I have done it myself. But if I’m honest, I wasn’t really aware of the actual effect I was having on the unseen spiritual world. I would say the magic words that I was taught to repeat and then hope for the best. Sometimes the desired blessing would follow, sometimes not. I didn’t really know what I was doing though, so I looked up to more mature prayer warriors who appeared to me to be so much more confident in their faith. Surely they had more insight into what was going on in the spiritual realm?
One of the most common ways of “pleading the blood” is in effecting salvation, reminding God of what Jesus has done for us so that we might be saved. For some, we cannot be assured of our salvation unless we have gone through the steps of telling God that we want to be covered by Christ’s sacrifice. There is a divine transaction that needs to be made, Christ’s blood for our sins, sometimes called Penal Substitutionary Atonement.
What is the cross?
But the cross of Christ is not a magical payment of sins to a devil or an angry, distant deity. John 1 tells us that Jesus came to his own, but his own did not receive him. He came preaching a message of love and acceptance apart from any kind of religious duty. A message of inclusion in the kingdom of God, despite our sins: an inclusion that changes us from the inside out. This is the message that we, his own people, could not then and still cannot accept now. It is too hard, too revolutionary to accept the message that God has done it all, that there is nothing left for us to do. We cannot receive it, and so we crucify Christ over and over again.
Nor is the cross something that God needs to be reminded of. Philippians chapter 2 says that the sacrificial, servant nature of the cross is at the core of God’s very nature. It is the pinnacle, the showcase of his love for us. And when it is all done, Jesus offers us nothing but forgiveness, proving God’s love for us in the midst of our greatest evil and rejection of him. He loves us despite what we do to him. He still accepts us as his own as much as we try to hurt him, others or ourselves. That is the power, that is the freedom of the blood. It is the weight of guilt lifted off of us all.
All the protective hedges, all the pleading of the blood, all the breakthroughs in the spiritual realm that I prayed for, really only ever amounted to superstition. I could only ever conjure up in my imagination what was happening in the unseen world. It left me uncertain, and at times fearful that I would be blindsided by some invisible demonic power. And yet I have discovered that Jesus’ blood speaks of his love, a love that casts out all fear. Blood that speaks of the union we have with God, that we are one just as Jesus is one with the Father.
Jesus’ blood speaks a greater word to us than Abel’s blood ever did to the Father. While Abel’s blood cried out for vindication after his brother murdered him, Jesus cries out, “It is Finished!” - ending all vindication and retribution, absorbing our wrath into himself and offering nothing but mercy and forgiveness. In taking our sins upon himself, he provided a path of transformation for us all. As Jesus himself said, “My I am-ness [mirrored in you] is your way; this is your truth and also your life! Every single person can now come face to face with the Father entirely because of my doing.” [John 14:6 Mirror Bible]
A greater word
Jesus’ sacrifice was to end all sacrifice, because God never required a sacrifice (Matt 9:13), our selfishness (our sin) did. His death was not necessary for the forgiveness of sin, but it was necessary to show to us that we were already forgiven, from the foundation of the world. He fulfilled the Law and brought it to an end, ushering in a new commandment, Love.
His is a way of mercy, not retribution and condition. A way of unconditional love for all people. A love that does not judge you on your past or future, your birthplace or religion. A Love that invites us all into his arms, to join him in his mandate to the world.
I have found that this Love for all people at all times is a lot easier to grasp than a conditional, superstitious, begging for a divine being to intervene in our lives or conjuring up some prayer or spell to bless ourselves. It is a lot easier to believe in too. It transforms faith and perspectives. Suddenly we can see life and love everywhere we look, even in the darkest, most ‘sinful’ places. It holds the mystery and unknowing of life in tension with relating to an infinitely knowable yet unknowable Creator. And even though I may not have all the answers, the Answer has me. And you. And them.
I can finally rest in his faith for us all and the message of reconciliation that we have been given.
Russell has a heart for community and reaching out to the marginalised and forgotten. He is getting to know the God of infinite goodness and is living a joy-filled life with his wife Belinda and three children in South-East Queensland, Australia.
See all previous articles by Russell Croft