Monday, April 4, 2011

We Give the Cross Power

We live in an untrustworthy world with an overabundance of sincere promises never kept, of passionate commitments vowed and broken, of agonizing disappointments. So, although I know the Garden of Eden was perfect, I understand our first parent’s  reaction to the call for utter trust in God. Trusting isn’t easy. 
Momma Eve, whether allegorical or real, is a tragic figure. I feel great sympathy for her spiritual collapse and temptation not to trust God. It is all too familiar in my own life. Life for most of us is pitiful and full of sorrows. We go from a childhood innocent vulnerability with breathless expectations to isolated brokenness. The nearer we travel towards our bodily demise, we live shattered; our body in slow disintegration, relationships growing cold and distant, emotions and senses dulling. 
Death is the ultimate divider from our fellow humans, even our spirit from our body.

This is the great consequence of Momma Eve’s choice to distrust He who is Trustworthy. She discarded her sunlit, safe purity and wholeness to enclose herself in an icy deceptive veil of self-protection. It left her more vulnerable than she could ever imagine. Now the security of the Father’s love was breached by the slow building of the barrier of doubt. The triune unbreakable unity of faith, hope and love was held at a distance. Love no longer could flow unobstructed between Creator and beloved creation.

Distrust crept into the virginal innocence of planet earth, brought by the Father of Lies. And nothing could ever be the same. For love requires the unobstructed openness of total self-giving. When we distrust because of the fear of disappointment and heartbreak, love is hindered and unity destroyed. 
The odd circumstance arose that the sinner, Eve, mistrusted the innocent God. God had done nothing to hurt or disappoint Eve and yet she, without a basis for unfaithfulness in God, relinquished her own faith becoming the perpetrator. From the first woman in collusion with the first man came evil. And now man needed fences on his property, boundaries to his emotions and laws for himself and his neighbor. Suspicion arose, cynicism blocked out the warmth of even the memory of a innocent and safe world.
Rather than obliterate His creation, God, as the broken-hearted victim of betrayal, put into place the immortal mystery of restoration. Unfathomable to the weak and limited imagination of man,  the Eternal Sovereign chose the way in which He could ultimately persuade and assure the cosmos that He was a God of love, trustworthy as the authority and incorruptible in His justice as Lord. He did not choose to simply pardon man convincing him of his trustworthiness in only words. He could have sent the unfallen angels on a mission to evangelize the world. He could have played out the effects of sin on a magnificent hologram in order to convince us of His rational, honorable righteousness. 
These and innumerable more options, He in His wisdom did not choose. He chose to captivate His creation and triumph over sin by a supreme demonstration of sacrificial love. He spread out His arms in humble acceptance to be beaten, torn in hours of scourging and torture. He vulnerably submitted to the most humiliating death to repair the brokenness of His unfaithful humanity. His heart was consumed with joy amidst all the agony thinking of each one of us by name. He was wooing us back with His love restoring our faith in Him. And this is how He chose to show us that He is trustworthy. 
In our world today, we are told by our teachers (taught by our psychologists) that what we need to be mentally healthy is to have self-confidence. We need to develop strong and correct boundaries (which are necessary to some degree in this unsafe and fallen world.) Protect yourself, trust no one. Stay in the safety of independence and self-reliance.
Then our spiritual authorities often then tell us, who are hiding inside our emotional bulwark, that we should toss over these fortified walls the gospel of Christ. I call it the “drive by evangelization.”
There is little in the western worldview that teaches us to self-sacrifice for others. Yet, even in this dangerous world, God is showing us that true restoration begins when we take down these boundaries of mistrust in Him (and eventually even others). We are being led into a spirituality that demands unmitigated vulnerability, even when it means pain. It means a trusting submission to Him even when the outcome is disappointment and a crushing of your heart.
Christ knew that the only authentic solution to a breech in humanities’ trust and faith is through sacrificial love. But where I will go further than most Christians today is I am going to suggest that Christ’s Passion is not enough. Yes, for the atoning of all humanities sins, absolutely. What I mean is that in the Western world, glutted by evangelization and centuries of theological sparring, mankind is hungry for more than words and promises of “we’ll pray for you.” The sacrifice of the Cross seems irrelevant and remote to most people, they cannot relate to it. 
God has given people, little Christs, who can be the intercessors to lead people to grasp what happened the cross. We are called to be His Body to the world. Though we cannot atone for other’s sins through our loving sacrifices, our intercession can bring Christ’s sacrifice near and make it understandable.
Because of the absolute necessity of sacrificial love to restore the disunity of faith and trust in the Lord, the Bible alone is not sufficient for spreading the gospel. The Bible cannot sacrifice for them, but Christians can. Others will not be saved until they can experience the cross and often reading it in scriptures is too distant. We make the cross personal by our humble servanthood, by our sacrifice for them--our patient, caring, giving of ourselves, our time, our ear to listen, our involvement in their lives.
As wonderful as it is to hear about the gospel, we are not called just to speak it but to live it. That doesn’t mean we are supposed to look like the unspottable Christian and behave as an example to others. (Although that is not objectionable, Jesus calls us all to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect.) But what this perfection looks like and acts like is not just about doctrine and altar calls and witnessing. It is humbly sharing in the joys and sorrows, it is breaking your will and desire, your plans, your life as Jesus was broken for us. Sacrificial love absorbs a verbal punch without retaliation. It gives the other what is good for them, even when it takes away what you need. It sacrifices. Christianity is in great need of eyes that see and ears that hear, not just from those who are dismally tired of being witnessed to, but from the Christian himself who needs to engage in surrendering and offering up oneself for the another. This will give the Cross its power.