… his face must have appeared as ugly to men, He was a criminal, and the danger to which He submitted the people of his time was perhaps more universal than that to which this man had submitted his contemporaries in these few streets of central Paris. This Man had been preaching love, not the ordinary habitual love, the tame love which associates so comfortably in our midst with coldness, indifference and cruelty. He was preaching a radical love that meant that in each of us, each of his fellow citizen the old man Cain had to die out, the old Adam had to die out, selfishness had to die out. What He preached was that nothing in us should be left except love that is the readiness to exist only for the other, only in the name of the other, ‘the other’ being both God and man, to exist only as a servant and as a worshiper, as devotee. That meant suicide of the old man, that meant murder of the inner man whom we gratify continuously at the expense both of God and of the other one. This Man had to die and He did, and He revealed to us something which we had never suspected, which we might never have discovered or invented about God. He disclosed to us God’s veneration for man, his readiness to become one of us not only in the glory of man but in the defeat of man because in the Incarnation we discover God defenseless, vulnerable, a God seemingly defeated, helplessly unprotected, a God become a criminal in the world He has created, contemptible to all men. The face of love, when this love knows no limits is ugly because it is always marked with blows, it is always wounded, it is always that which is described by Isaiah at the end the 52nd and in the course of the 53rd chapter of his prophecy.
And this God appears to us primarily not only the brother of the sufferer but the brother of the wrong-doer, He is one of the criminals. The crucifixion was a punitive measure taken by the stable society which He was about to upset to the very depth in abysmal way. God is the God of all, and we who claim to be his devotees must be men for all men, God shines his sun upon the good and upon the evil, God became man to identify himself with those who were in the wrong, not those who were in the right, he claimed that they had also a right for mercy, a right to be loved, a right to be served, a right to be saved. Not only the sufferers were to be protected but those who inflicted suffering were to find salvation, and from the camp of the tormentors move into the camp of the victims because there is no other place, there is no middle way.
In Christ we see something more incredible than we usually are aware of. His identification with us goes far beyond, his having become a man, his having shared all our human condition, his having accepted thirst and hunger, cold and tiredness, loneliness and dereliction, rejection and hatred. On the Cross we find something more final in his acceptance of us — the final, the deepest, the decisive tragedy of man. What is at the root of all the tragedies of the world is that we have lost God, — and Christ accepts to share with us the loss of God. On the Cross He says a few words that are more tragic than all the tragedies which we deplore, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” This is the measure of the divine love. He accepts in his humanity the Godlessness which is ours and which He perceives in a way in which no-one ever will perceive or understand. And when we think of our modern world divided between believers and atheists, divided between men of love and men of hatred, between self-sufficient opulence and desperate need, we find that in contradistinction with us He does not take sides against anyone. He becomes the companion of each and of all, there is not one man deprived of God, one Godless man who has known Godlessness in the way in which Christ has known it on the cross. …
… and free into death and one way that never meets the other, narrow and hard, into life eternal but because they meet, because hatred, greed, fear and cruelty always cut into the spiritual or the physical substance of man, the man who suffers acquire the divine power of forgiveness, can together with God become man say, “Forgive, Father, they do not know what they are doing.”
One of our Russian bishops who in the course of the revolution died a martyr death left before he was brought to earth a note to a young disciple. In this note he says, “Remember that it is the privilege of the believer not only to believe but to suffer with God and for Him because,” he adds, “it is only the martyr, that is, the sufferer and the witness, who at the Day of Judgment will be able to take his stand before the judgment seat of God and say, “In Thy name, following Thy example I have forgiven. Thou has no claim against this man anymore.” These words we are not to turn to those who suffer injustice, we are not to turn their edge against the others but we must accept them for ourselves and as we claim human rights for men, the right to be man in all freedom, the right to risk eternal life and eternal damnation, the right to risk our own life and anyone else’s life, as we are claiming this right to be and to become for all men, we must be prepared to pay the cost of this claim of ours and to pay for this freedom, which we ask for men. If we are not prepared to do this, then let us beware because we are going by claiming rights, human rights for humans to unleash more freedom than we are prepared to face in others. May God grant us that greatness of heart, that courage, that love of men that which allow us to say, “At the cost of all that is dear to me, my life and my death, I claim these rights for those who are mine and those who are not.”