In America and much of the post-Christian West, the cross has lost its meaning. Jesus’ first century audience knew the cross had just one meaning, death. Yet the cross was the image Jesus chose. He called his followers to “take up their cross”. In enterprising Western society, “come and die” is not good marketing.
We’re faced with a choice. We can continue to reframe the cross as a symbol of religious devotion, making Christianity reasonable and respectable. Or we can see it for what is: a symbol of loss and death by which God releases his power into the world.
Paul made the cross a point of pride. “Far be it from me to boast” he says, “except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” To the Christian, the cross is both an end and a beginning. It is where God put sin to death, and made redemption possible.
Seen rightly, the cross cuts against the grain of culture and our own spirit. The offense of the crucified life keeps many away from the call. Jesus invites us to live this life—a crucified life in God’s kingdom. In this Kingdom of crucified dying & Spirit-filled rising, the world is turned upside down.
We can reframe the cross as a symbol of religious devotion, making Christianity reasonable and respectable. Or we can see it for what is: a symbol of loss and death by which God releases his power into the world.
Jesus’ kingdom posts gains and losses all together different from the economy of Western society, or any society for that matter. The cross stands for a laying down of rights at the feet of King Jesus—from our 5 year plan, to our political loyalties, to how we relate with one another. In all this, what seems like death, however small, is actually making way for resurrection.
To that end, the world should not just hear the message of the cross, it should see a crucified community. The cross is the common ground for the Church, a community of crucified little Christs. The Church is made up of those who know by faith that death makes way for life.
Only in the crucified life with Christ can we love God and love neighbor. The crucified make their way through the world with anonymity, content in hardship, willing to lay aside their rights as Jesus laid aside his, for the good of the neighbor to the glory of God.
The cross to the Christian must be more than a comfort, it is also our call.
“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” – Jesus, Matthew 16.24