This morning, having finished my leisurely caper through Exodus, I began reading the book of Leviticus, chapters 1-7. It is not for the squeamish. As a vegetarian, I am taken aback by the amount of animals that need to be slaughtered in the Tent of Meeting: bulls, sheep, goats, pigeons. And this is not some sanitary, pristine operation. Blood is drained and then splashed around, fat is cut off, pigeons’ necks are wrung by the priests. It’s pretty gory stuff. (I almost had to set aside my cranberry juice!)
Yet in the middle of this gore-fest, a one clear truth stood out.
Sin = slaughter. It’s clear that sin has a cost, and most often (with the pleasant notable exception of the grain offering) this cost will involve a death. In today’s society, the effects of sin, and any price that has to be paid are often remote to us. The internet scammer never sees the tears of his victim when they discover their looted bank account. The bank that orders the foreclosure, after making a loan it never should have made in their pursuit of rapacious profit, does not witness the distress of the former homeowner, locked out of their house, with their possessions on the front lawn.
If you can say anything about Leviticus, it’s that the consequences of sin were proximate, close, near to the person who committed the sin. Sin has no safe distance. If you sin, you might be in the “splash zone” of the blood of the animal that was sacrificed to put this right.
Jumping to the New Testament, we see this consequence in its full expression, with the bloody death of Christ on a cross. This is no polished crucifix jewelry. This is blood-stained wood, the corpuscles of Christ on a cross.
As Hebrews 9:22 says:
In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.
Our cleansing, our forgiveness was bought at a terrible price. We must not, we can not, be casual about sin. There is a cost. There was a death.