by Jacquelyn Wheeler
In a sermon series about spiritual revival, John Mark Comer preached a sermon called, “Born After Midnight,” in which he asserted that revivals are just that: born after midnight. In the heart of the Christian who will sacrifice his sleep for the kingdom, the Holy Spirit will make his dwelling.
He said, “I want to see my blood spilled in the streets of Portland for the salvation of this city.” Even in weird little Portland, Christians are not martyrs, but that does not mean that they shouldn’t be willing to sacrifice every inch of freedom won on the cross that someone else might experience that freedom. And as I consistently prayed the same prayer over the next few years, I imagined myself poured out on the streets of my city. The thought made me feel alive, absolutely willing to let my blood spill should a critical moment arise.
From prison in Rome, Paul wrote in his letter to the Philippians, “Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all.”
In Isaiah this drink offering is used as a metaphor, describing the Suffering Servant who “poured out his life unto death.”
The notion of a drink offering as blood spilled in passion reminded me of Nietzsche. “Of all that is written I love only what a man has written with his blood. Write with blood, and you will find that blood is spirit.”
Jesus wrote in blood and taught his disciples to do the same. As a recipient of grace, the Apostle Paul could do nothing else but lay down his life, to let his blood spill in the streets upon the sacrificial offering of each place’s faith.
The grace of Christ was costly for him to give, and the result is a costly calling for us to receive.
In Ancient Greece, they used the term “spondee” to indicate the category of sacrifice into which a drink offering would fall. This discovery indicated a curious connection between what I know spondee to mean (a metrical foot consisting of two stressed syllables) and the ritual that I associate with the sacrifice of one who writes in blood, be it the philosopher, or God in human form. When I looked this up in the etymology dictionary, I discovered that the connection between the libation sacrifice and the metrical foot is due to the use of the spondee in the chants that accompanied such a ritual.
But the spondee has another connection. Each stressed syllable is a peak. Zarathustra teaches, “Whoever writes in blood and aphorisms does not want to be read but to be learned by heart. In the mountains the shortest way is from peak to peak, but for that one must have long legs. Aphorisms should be peaks, and those who are addressed, tall and lofty.” According to Nietzsche, there is a connection between being the kind of man who writes with his blood and using aphoristic language, stressed sentence following stressed sentence. I see the spondee as a metaphor for living from peak to peak. The one who lives this way will speak and read and write this way: in blood and aphorisms.
Nietzsche understood that a truly great man is one who would take the full weight of humankind’s actions upon himself: not just the punishment, but also the guilt. “Invent for me the love that bears not only all punishment but also all guilt! Then invent for me the justice that acquits every one except the judge!” Zarathustra, like Paul, offers himself as a sacrifice: “Thus I want to die myself, that you friends may love the earth more for my sake; and I want to become earth again, to have rest in her that bore me.” Unlike Paul, however, Nietzsche would die—not that we may love the faith, or the kingdom of heaven, but so that man may forget about such things and love the earth. Despite his rejection of an otherworldly salvation, Nietzsche understood what it meant to write with blood.
I asked my Nietzsche-loving friend what he thought it meant to write in blood. He said, “One writes in blood in two ways. The first means that you think with your gut, that the essence of your writing must be who you are at your very core. Secondly, I think Nietzsche might be referring to an over-abundance of life, that the philosopher must give his life to the world—not because the world is weak, but because he is strong and will not grow faint for lack of blood.”
The best image of writing in blood in my mind, however, is in a piece of fiction written by a 17-year-old boy. It is called “The Room.” He finds a room with a detailed and horrifying record of every moment of his life, every thought and act he’s ever produced. Some cards are funny to him, others, not so much. Jesus comes in, and, to the narrator’s shame, reads every card. One by one Jesus takes the cards, and begins to write his name in blood over the narrator’s. He doesn’t know how to respond:
“All I could find to say was, ‘No, no,’ as I pulled the card from Him. His name shouldn’t be on these cards. But there it was, written in red, so rich, so dark, so alive. The name of Jesus covered mine. It was written in blood.”
With my record of rights and wrongs all drowned in blood, I go out with the blood of Christ in my veins, looking for places to write his name upon the streets of my city, the halls of my apartment; places to let it drip all over everything I touch, so rich, so dark, so alive.