Sunday, 27 March 2016

What the Cross means to me.

The Cross means everything to me. And it represents everything that we desperately need now more than ever. While the postmodern world of self-significance is moving away from it, we need to turn from all that and return to the Cross. I believe it is a place where we will find our anchor, our meaning and our joy. 

Even if you are an atheist, the Cross is still compelling. It speaks about a historical man who gave himself completely for a cause. He died for a reason and that reason is not to save himself. He died for love. He gave himself for love. He lived a life of love. That's the long and short of it for the atheist. A metanarrative in a nutshell.

Even if an atheist would to deny that Jesus is God, he can't deny his unwavering commitment to the end, even unto his own death. There is just something provoking about the Cross that should give the atheist pause to do some soul-searching reflection, especially during such time of self-seeking indulgence.

The Cross is visible to all for a reason. It is a unifying force for everything that is redeeming in us. It is meant to be an invitation for all to come and witness for themselves a man who was at the lowest point of his life. You see, Jesus had a choice but he made his nevertheless. He could opt out of it but he wanted in. He was already free, but he chose the greater freedom – the freedom to obey.

Stripped of practically everything, Jesus had nothing and was nothing as he hung there. He was both full and devoid of humanity. He was both the most reviled animal and the most glorified beast you will ever witness. He was in fact a sight of unspeakable disgust and paradoxical awe. 

The message here is not about how he was put to death. But more importantly, it is about why he put himself there in the first place. Why did he submit to such a macabre end?

In today's business jargon, one can say that Jesus was a value-driven man. Yet his values were not efficiency, productivity or material success. It is definitely not those values that the world embraces or seeks after. 

Hung there, at the nondescript Cross, Jesus was anything but the symbol of efficiency, productivity and material success. Only one value drove Jesus at all times, and that was selflessness. He emptied himself completely by offering himself at the Cross. And that was why he took that road to grief, that lonely tortuous journey to Calvary. 

While the world seeks to identify with money, fame and power, Jesus shunned all that and chose to identify with love and sacrifice. He saw a greater freedom in the road less traveled, the narrow way. That freedom is the freedom from self. 

And that is why the Cross means everything to me. It doesn't just preach about love. It fulfilled it. It doesn't just preach about sacrifice. It satisfied it. It doesn't just preach about victory over flesh. It crucified it. The Cross is more than a symbol of mind over matter. It is in essence spirit over flesh, hope over despair, love over hate, strength over sufferings, obedience over self-will, and joyful action over apathy. 

The Cross therefore deals with what matters most in my life. It shows me the order of things, the priority of goals. Jesus did not come to win a campaign, to spread an ideology or to secure an earthly crown. He came and died for a mission far more important, urgent and relevant. He came to show us how we can do likewise, that is, to overcome self. He took the battle of personal change to where it really counts, that is, in the hearts of men. 

Jesus' battle and victory were unseen because he fought for an internal transformation, and not so much an external one. Clearly the Cross succeeded at doing just that because for those who are transformed by it, the change is genuine, enduring and empowering. Needlessly to say, it is also infectious. And it is only by such change that humanity will move forward together and not go down on their own totalitarian paths.

However, the world reversed that priority and places external change before internal transformation. And sadly, this has resulted in what we are witnessing today, that is, the bankruptcy of the spirit for the expediency of the flesh even as the flesh seeks to do what it deems is good. But it is only a self-seeking good that further deepens the spiritual estrangement. While the Cross seeks to expose the hypocrisy of man, the world seeks to offer it convalescence and refuge. 

For all these reasons, I am deeply indebted to the Cross for showing me the way, the truth and the life. The Cross humbles me. It awakens me. It empowers me. As a believer, the Cross tells of a simple love story. It is a story that showed that someone actually bothered. He bothered to go all the way. He bothered to give all up. He bothered to remember me. And as a believer, that someone is my Creator.

Jesus was indeed a revolutionary in his time and for all time. He made himself a shinning example - both an example of the ugliness of sin, and at the same time, an over-comer of it. 

Here, as I end, I am reminded of a poem by theologian John Shea about John the Baptist being only half a man because he could do only half the job:

"I can denounce a king, but I cannot enthrone one.
I can strip an idol of its power, but I cannot reveal the true God.
I can wash the soul in sand, but I cannot dress it in white.
I can devour the word of the Lord like wild honey, 
but I cannot lace his sandal.
I can condemn sin, but I cannot bear it away.
Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world."

So this is the day,
That the Lord has fulfilled.
By the Cross, he laid.
And death's repealed.
So I will rejoice,
And be glad in it.
Lifting my voice,
And declare he lives!


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