Now's the Time for a Kaizen!

Typically, life is busy.  Days are full of activities and chores, outings and deadlines.  Amidst the hustle and bustle it's easy to postpone that which could help us become better versions of ourselves: exercise, prayer, recreation, reading, etc. 

I'm as guilty as the next of putting the demands of life ahead of my own need for a "kaizen", which is the japanese term for "continuous improvement".  Chris, who always makes time for reading, often recites passages which were especially impactful for one reason or another.  At times, as to justify my misaligned priorities, I shrug and dismiss what he has shared claiming that it's basically the same as something else we've heard or read in the past.  The absurdity of my unspoken message rests on the idea that he is somehow wasting his time....which is totally untrue.   

This last month, since we've been in quarantine to help prevent the spread of coronavirus, life has found a new rhythm.  Without activities, outings and deadlines there are no excuses for putting things off.  As such, Chris and I are currently reading the book No God But One: Allah or Jesus?  to help us learn more about Islam and the Muslim culture. 

The author, Nabeel Qureshi, is a former Muslim who spent more than a decade investigating the evidence for Islam and Christianity as to determine the one real truth. 

A strategy that Qureshi uses to present his findings is to raise a question commonly asked by proponents of either Islam or Christianity and then to answer the question with objective facts.  One such question pertains to the death of Jesus by means of crucifixion, which Muslims staunchly deny.  Qureshi establishes his case for Jesus' death on the cross, in part, by explaining the significance of this form of execution during Jesus' time.  Although I learned about Jesus' crucifixion at a very young age, there was something different about Nabeel's account that deeply impacted me.  Like Chris, I'm eager to share a bit of what I've read.  I hope that (with a better attitude than I have at times) you'll take a few moments to read the following excerpt, and I pray that it helps you to appreciate our Lord's great sacrifice in a new way. 

Of all of the horrific ways in which people were
tortured, death by crucifixion was considered the most cruel.
Nabeel Qureshi says, "People were all too familiar with the terror of the cross. Simply put, the cross was one of the most vicious, torturous, and effective methods of execution that human depravity has ever devised.  The torment of the cross was so extreme that a word was invented to describe it: excruciating, which translates from Latin to describe a pain 'from the cross'.  Cicero, the ancient roman orator, describes crucifixion as 'that most cruel and disgusting penalty' and 'the worse extremes of torture.'  According to him, even thinking about 'the terror of the cross' was too horrible for Roman citizens: 'The very word 'cross' should be far removed not only from the person of a Roman citizen but from his thoughts, his eyes and his ears'.  Seneca the Younger penned this paragraph, describing the despair of the crucified: 'Can anyone be found who would prefer wasting away in pain, dying limb by limb, or letting out his life drop by drop, rather than expiring once for all?  Can any man be found willing to be fastened to the accursed tree, long sickly, already deformed, swelling with ugly tumours on chest and shoulders, and draw the breath of life amid long-drawn-out agony?  I think he would have many excuses for dying even before mounting the cross!' "

"Crucifixion was an execution reserved for Rome when they wanted to make a statement.  There was no standard procedure for the crucifixion, as executioners were often given license to express profligate brutality.  Victims were at times fixed to the cross in awkward poses, at times nailed through their groins, at times forced to watch the violation of their wives, at times made to witness the slaughter of their whole families, and at time having their slain sons hung around their necks.  Crucifixion was not just another means of execution, as there are much more efficient ways to kill."  

"The cross was intended for brutality, and victims were not treated gently.  The cross came after a flogging, as in the case of Jesus, which was itself a horrendous torture.  The whip was designed to rip into skin and turn muscle to pulp, making a victim's 'blood flow in streams'.  Victims were  'whipped to the bone' and their intestines were at times exposed by the flogging'."

"This is why Seneca describes a victim, by the time he is on the cross, as a 'battered and ineffective carcass'.  The ultimate end of crucifixion was execution, and it was easy to determine whether victims of the cross were alive or dead: simply observe whether they were still moving.  If they were not, they were dead, because it meant they were not breathing.  On account of the way crucifixion victims were made to hang, their rib cages were fully expanded and their lungs would not generate the pressure necessary to exhale.  In order to breathe out, they had to push up against the nail in their feet, and they could inhale as the sank bank down.  Once they had reached the limit of sheer exhaustion or blood loss, their bodies would sink down, they would no longer be able to breathe out, and they would die of asphyxiation.  That is why one method of expediting or ensuring the death of victims was to break their knees, as is reported to have occurred to the bandits on either side of Jesus.  Once their knees were broken, they could no longer breathe out and they would soon expire.  Yet the Romans has other means of ensuring death.  Among other methods, they were known to light people's bodies on fire, to feed the bodies to wild animals, or, in the case of Jesus, to pierce the heart.  This is a highly condensed and abbreviated description of the terror of the cross.  It was an execution reserved for what Rome deemed the most worthless or heinous of criminals.  Perhaps now it is understandable why the word cross was used as a rank curse word among the lower class in ancient Rome: 'Get crucified!'  It should come as no surprise that never in recorded history has anyone survived a full Roman crucifixion."  

St. Paul preached the message of salvation through
Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection
"What should come as a surprise, though, is that a religious movement could ever be started with the ridiculous proclamation that their Savior was crucified.  Given the insuperable stigma of crucifixion, it should be a shock that Christians propagated their message by saying that their Savior died on the cross.  How could Jesus save anyone if he died such a horrendous death?  This is why people ridiculed Christians for this belief.  To Jews and non-Jews, the message of a crucified Savior was abhorrent and ridiculous.  In other words, everyone who heard the message of the cross would have been repulsed by it, at least at first.  It was certainly not an attractive proclamation.  The question that we must consider, given that the cross would elicit such derision and aversion is, Why would Christians preach such a message?  Why not preach an alternative, more attractive message, like Jesus' survival of the cross, or that, despite appearances, Jesus was never placed on the cross to begin with?  Better yet, why not leave the cross out of Christian preaching entirely, teaching that he died by some other means or perhaps never died at all but was raised directly to heaven?  All of these would have made the Christian message much more appealing to everyone who heard it?  There is only one probable answer: Jesus actually did die by crucifixion, and the disciples were preaching what they had to preach if they wanted to proclaim the truth...Positing that Jesus did not die on the cross would have served the agenda of the early Christians and those opposed to their message, but such a suggestion appears inconceivable.  For those who study Jesus' life in academia, the idea that Jesus did not die by crucifixion remains, to this day, outside the realm of possibility."  (No God But One: Allah or Jesus? pages 165-169)

Thank you for taking the time to read this snippet.  I pray that during this very unusual time of worldwide quarantine you do those things which have been put-off for way too long; that you take the opportunity to become a better version of yourself ~ whatever that means for you.  

God bless, Karen

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