September 8, 2012

"Lift high the cross, the love of Christ proclaim..."

One of my favorite hymns begins with these words: "Lift high the cross, the love of Christ proclaim..."

How often do we use the cross as a weapon? How often do we use the symbol of Love in the Midst of Pain as a battering ram against those whose views we do not share? Do we believe Jesus and the cross can be mis-used in this way without consequence? If we do, we are wrong.

The most important thing we can say about the cross is that it shows and symbolizes God's willingness to occupy a small space on our behalf, to suffer unimaginable pain for us, to seek us regardless of how wayward and rebellious we have become. This cross is a picture of outstretched arms (temporarily) at the mercy of spitters and scoffers.

The only message of the cross is love. Love that is unending, love that does not leave us alone, love that challenges and corrects us, love that says and does what it hard, painful, and uncomfortable.

I believe the church should challenge believers to holiness and should challenge unbelievers to repentance and redemption. All of that must be done in the context of love. There is no other reason for anyone to seek God but to find and know the love of God. That's what salvation is all about.

Who wants to become "saved" in order to know a God who does not love?

Does a God of love send someone to Hell? No. A God of love creates a path away from Hell, but forces no one to travel that path. The respect and "courtesy" (as Julian of Norwich put it) shown to us by God is amazing and beyond comprehension. God extends an endless love to us. That is the message of the cross.

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