In the beginning was the Word,and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.In him was life,and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness,and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:1-
With all of the “Gay Christian” controversy and conversation going on, it’s led me to think very deeply about what I believe about salvation and ask a lot of questions. I like to pool my resources and dip into perspectives that are different than my own, I like to reach outside of my comfort zone when I’m searching myself and God this way, because, honestly, some of the best answers come from the places that are less familiar to me. Shocking, I know.
Thinking about what I believe about salvation has led me, naturally, straight to the cross and stirred some interesting feelings and reactions that I didn’t quite expect from myself, and from those whom I’ve asked questions of. I like to challenge myself, perhaps more than I should at times, but for the most part I think it’s a good thing. For this reason when I feel resistant to something (most of the time) I want to know why, when I sense other people feel resistant to something I want to know why even more. Where do resistance and the cross meet? Let me tell you.
My spiritual influences have been predominately Protestant/Evangelical until the last few years as I’ve began to deeply appreciate and have interest in Orthodox Christianity. Something I’ve noticed about Protestants is that, for the most part, when we talk about The Cross, we talk about, well, the cross… as in literally the wooden beams that Jesus was hung on, but very rarely do we focus on Him actually hanging there. Think about it, when we wear crosses, they aren’t crucifixes, it’s just the image of the cross. How often have you seen pictures of the three crosses on a hill depicted in Protestant/Evangelical churches? In my own mind, when the cross is mentioned, in my head it’s not the torture device bearing my dying Savior, it’s a pristine naked cross that reflects that same Savior risen. This isn’t a terrible thing, but I thought it was interesting, especially interesting when I started to note my own reaction to images of Jesus on the cross.
I’ve always had the impression that Protestants were more interested in a resurrected Christ than a dying Christ. I’ve accepted the message of the hope of the Risen Savior without question, and don’t get me wrong, it is a very good message. But there seems to be this resistance within Evangelicalism to see Jesus on the cross, I have sensed it in myself and in others. Images of Jesus dying are unnecessary and keeping a crucifix is taboo or ultra religious.
Thus my curiosity was stirred and I began to dig, and to keep it simple the gist of what I’ve found is that my Protestant/Evangelical brothers and sisters seem to think that the message of Jesus on the cross is not as important as the message of Jesus risen. Or to say it a different way, why focus on the gory sad part when we can be glad that Jesus rose again and defeated death and sin? Well yes, why in the world… except…
We think of Jesus as all God and all man right up until the cross and then he becomes simply all man. All man dying. We view him there as we would view a man sentenced to death for a crime he didn’t commit, it grieves us, we sense the injustice, we are even able to accept and mourn the fact that it is in our place that he dies. But in the moment to many of us, Jesus, the Son of God, is just one of us dying, we even wonder sometimes if we would be able to die for love of someone else. Then we move on and Jesus becomes God again as he defies all odds and raises from the dead. We revel in the impossible beauty of our Risen Savior, our Jesus who isn’t destroyed in death but who lives victorious.
What we’re failing to realize is that as impossible and beautiful the resurrection is, God’s death on the cross is even more impossible and more beautiful. Why? Because God died on the cross. Digest those words for a moment. I don’t blame some of us for resisting any type of focus on this one area, because as I attempt to really grasp it, it’s horrifying and beyond my ability to cope with fully understanding. It is a mystery unlike any other, but after having really thought about it, for me it has become the most crucial part of understanding salvation and who I am in Christ.
If I’ve quoted Peter’s words once, I’ve quoted them a thousand times, “For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit” (1 Peter 3:18) and I’ve always believed that what was done on the cross covered past, present, and future, but when I stopped thinking of a man dying on that cross and came to terms with my God dying on it, this truth took on new meaning. I realized that Jesus’ death was not a moment in time, or a historical event, but rather an irrevocable fact. The reality of God dying for us is so impossible, if we can even begin to wrap our minds around it as a reality, that it is uncontainable, limitless, it has no boundaries. It didn’t just change the course of the future, it reached into the past and made human existence possible, otherwise the world would have caved in on itself when Eve took the first bite of the forbidden fruit. Creation wasn’t made to be in rebellion against its Creator, but we are given the opportunity to exist and be reconciled to our Creator because God died and rose again.
How do we dare to question that there is -anything- that could not be covered by what was done on the cross by God himself? If there was anything that was not covered we would all cease to exist.
I cannot bear to weigh sin any longer, not my own, and certainly not the sin of others. Sin and death were broken when the Creator of all things sacrificed himself. If I truly believe that what the Bible says was done on the cross was actually done, who am I to question who does or does not belong to God?
The sight of a crucifix is still uncomfortable to me, but not because it seems spooky or religious, but because it reminds me of something real that I cannot fully understand and I welcome the reminder.We have to stop leaving Jesus off of the cross, because when we do it becomes less about him and more about a status symbol. Perhaps it would do us all good to stop being so proud of what we think we know, and be humbled by what happened on the cross and what we cannot understand. After all, God told Adam and Eve to eat freely from the tree of Life, but to leave the tree of knowledge alone.
It doesn’t matter to me what your sexual orientation is, where your weaknesses lie, what are your strengths, credentials, what denomination you belong to, or where you align yourself politically, it’s not my job to decide whether you belong to God or not. All I can do is turn to the Father with all I am, encouraging you to do the same, and let his grace and love draw out of us what is true. He has given me the ministry of reconciliation, not condemnation.