When Jesus died on the cross it wasn’t a tidy Sunday-school-study job. It was a bloody war zone. Heaven and hell were duking it out. Jesus couldn’t breathe. It was a hideous setting. Loud screams and crying jarred the hillside. Pain echoed. Men and women begged this not continue. Excruciating agony prevailed. Complete darkness settled in by mid-day. Astonishingly by this move, hell was ransacked. Mankind just got hit with the greatest wonder of hope imaginable due to the disturbing death of the firstborn.
Somehow Sunday schools have mopped up the mess down through the centuries. To study the topic of the cross is much cleaner than the original. We don’t seem to flinch when the scene is reviewed. Our slick little quarterlies remove all disgust of the actual event. Our hands are clean and the roast is in the oven. If we would have been at the crucifixion there is a good chance we would have passed out from the unfolding trauma. Historical records reveal the cross to be the most debase and torturous procedure of all capital punishment methods. It was this one the Father chose for the innocent son.
So what does it say for Christians today who are called to take up their crosses? Such an appeal has parallel implications. We are called to take up our cross which means there will be grief, not ritual; agony, not convenience; and hassle, not discussion questionnaires. We have lost the truth that we are to be greatly pained so that even those who are our enemies might have opportunity to run into the unfathomable love of God. A world isn’t without God simply because it is too naive to get it. It is without God because believers have laid down their crosses and taken up their coffee mugs. Church has become far more social than intentional. We have shifted from dying for our enemies to barking at a dark world from our padded pews.
A stale, argumentative, dysfunctional congress isn’t America’s tallest hurdle. The hope of the entire world is always based on the reality of the old and rugged cross. Jesus’ was first. Ours is to follow. Both are the hope for any who are in crisis. Even enemies were loved by God. Ours is the call to see that the lineage of the cross doesn’t stop with our generation. True church was never defined by where we attend. It was always marked by dying to self for others’ sake in the name of Jesus. It is a serious matter.