In this series we’re exploring how the six-chapter Jesus Story (manger/incarnation, cross/crucifixion, tomb/resurrection, ascension, Pentecost and Parousia) become the means for living into our two-fold mission of loving God and loving others. The Jesus Story is a kind of “pattern” which shapes us as people and congregations.
The cross becomes a particularly powerful event which shapes both our vertical love of God and horizontal love of others.
We grow in our love for God as we embrace these realities of the cross:
- Jesus’ displays unlimited love for the unlovable. Simply put, we are all unlovable. At times we feel this deeply. It’s in these moments of guilt and self-doubt that we are shocked by the reality of the cross. Whereas our love for ourselves has limits, Jesus’ love for us has none. Anytime we question God’s love, we need only look to the cross. As we embrace this, we grow in our love for God. (This is sometimes called the moral influence/exemplar theory of atonement).
- Jesus conquers power with powerlessness. We are enslaved by sin and Satan. Jesus’ death, however, vanquished these foes. We’ve been liberated-not by might but by mercy; not by strength but by weakness. As we soak our minds in this truth, we grow in our love for God. (This is sometimes called the Christus Victor theory of atonement).
- Jesus’ effort, not ours, earned our salvation. Christianity is spelled D-O-N-E, not D-O. It’s based on what Jesus has done, not on what we do. Jesus took our place and did for us what we could not do ourselves. Our relationship with the Father is based on grace not works. As we recognize this truth, we grow in our love for God. (This is sometimes called the substitutionary atonement theory).
- Jesus’ sacrifice for all creates a community for all. Jesus’ death opened access to the Father for every race, gender, and class. Despite our color, cash or country, the cross creates a community to which we all belong. As we experience this new community, we grow in love for God.
- Jesus’ persevered despite his pain. The more right an action, the more likely it will bring critique and condemnation. This was never truer than in Jesus’ life. Yet Jesus did not allow the resistance to dissuade him from what he believed to be God’s will. As we see his perseverance, we grow in our love of God.
- Jesus’ purpose was worth his full surrender. Jesus had a mission worth dying for. He possessed something greater than anything, even his life. Thus he willingly surrendered all for a greater purpose. His surrender leads us to love God more.
We grow in our love for others as we engage in these ramifications of the cross:
- We display unlimited love for the unlovable. Individuals and congregations are called to display unlimited love for the unlovable. We are called to forgive rather than seek revenge. We are called to extend mercy where none exists. We live with open hands, giving love freely and generously.
- We conquer power with powerlessness. Individuals and congregations do not solve the community’s or country’s problems by storming city hall or rioting in the streets. Our hope lies not in influencing the rich and famous or the political and prestigious. Might never makes right. Instead, we adopt strategies of powerlessness-humble acts of death to self and self-denial that carry with them remarkable powers of transformation.
- We oppose all efforts to earn salvation. Individuals and congregations refuse to create communities which lean toward any form of legalism. We welcome and embrace individuals before they “get their act together” not after. We proclaim a message of grace to a world loaded down with works.
- We sacrifice to create a community for all. Racial reconciliation becomes a priority for individuals and congregations of the cross. We seek to become multi-colored and multi-racial. We engage in missions to people groups far unlike ourselves. We respect Christian perspectives from other nationalities and seek not to impose our Western practices and perspectives on Christians of other nationalities. Racism, sexism, ageism, and all other “isms” die quickly and mercilessly in our communities.
- We persevere despite the pain. Critics will not stop those who follow in the steps of the cross. The presence of criticism or condemnation, especially from other Christians, does not necessarily indicate that we’re on the wrong path. It may in fact be a sign that we are on the right path. Individuals and churches seek to fulfill God’s purposes for them despite the resistance from others.
- Our purpose is worth our full surrender. We’ve been granted a mission worth everything, even our lives. We believe there is nothing more fulfilling that God’s purposes for us. Thus we full surrender all we have and are to that mission.
What would you add?