How can we glory in the Cross? How can a gospel that is so violent be beautiful? These are questions that oddly occur only to us the church submerged in the pursuit of peace and personal spiritual well being of those who view pain through the lens of being stuck in a freeway. The flogged God seems self-destructive. Why would God do that to Himself to satisfy Himself? The blood of Good Friday makes us sick. Couldn’t God have so loved the world that he gave us therapy? Why the cross?It is hard to see in an age when every emotion, every desire is justified. Having come to the end of myself, I know there is no joy in the indulgence of my pleasure. What I want is most often destructive to myself and to others. How I look back with horror on my indulgence of my own desires in my youth. How I wish that I could undo pain caused, words carelessly spoken, and evils committed. The further from self-indulgence I move the worse it looks to me. More and more the sweet joy of denying self and taking up my own cross becomes obvious. The pain of saying “no” to self is possible, because the true sting of it was taken by God on Himself. God became man and suffered at the hands of men so that I can become free of the problems of men. Love faced hatred and allowed all of men’s wicked passions full reign so that we can say “no” to our wicked desires. Wicked desires. We really do have them. It is remembering that fact that makes the Cross so necessary and so glorious. The Cross is the answer to evil, but we had forgotten evil. It is no surprise that we are struggling to find the courage for the War on Terror. It is not neat. Problems cannot be solved according to script or in well lit, air conditioned rooms, using calm voices. There are no reports to be filed in the city of Baghdad, just brave deeds to be done. In that world of pain and misery, brought on by the arrogance of one man, Sadaam, who looted a nation’s soul, sin makes sense. Men turn for answers to people they hope are holy and these men betray them. Other men go to porn movies misusing their newly found liberty by becoming uworthy of it. Still others wait and wait for the Americans to solve all their problems, their resolve sapped by the tyrant’s decades of rule. American blood will liberate Iraq. In the end, we will give our lives and our treasure that another nation may be free. We will do this despite the fact that this liberty may allow them ingratitude. Without the shedding of blood, few if any nations have achieved liberty. Almost no great action has been taken without awful sacrifice. We are slowly waking up from our indulgence, from our reduction of religion to our fads and tastes, and our refusal to allow Christ to dominate us. We don’t want our religion coercive, but Jesus is Lord and sits His apostles on thrones. We proclaim the Kingdom of God, but act like democrats. We excuse the sins of others hoping that God’s love will be soft and easy, like an over indulgent parent. But the Cross makes all our believes a lie. God demanded of Himself the Cross. The Second person of the Holy Trinity came and suffered. He judges our sins and we have but one hopeful response. Two men betrayed him: Judas refused to repent, killed himself and was damned while Peter repented with bitter tears, was forgiven, and became prince of the apostles. Two thieves were hanging with Christ on the cross: one continued to justify himself and died in his bitterness while the other acknowledged the justice of his sentence and entered with Christ into paradise. There is power in the blood, spilled blood.How we sang and sang this as a child. “Would you be free from the power of sin, there is power in the blood!” Liberal critics sniffed at our “slaughter house” religion. And now the children of the great evangelical revivals are too gnostic, too smart, too internet savvy, to sing of the blood. They do not embrace a religion of denial and pain. They do not like to think of the awesome power in the Blood. It is too central, too demanding. It cannot be marketed. There is a wonderful image in Mel Gibson’s passion where the soldier Longinus pierced Jesus side with the Holy Lance and then was bathed in the water and blood that flowed from the Christ’s side. “Disgusting” a secularist may say. “Cleansing” a believer replies. All the foul sin of Auschwitz, of the torture rooms of Baghdad, of the House of Special Purpose in the Soviet Union, and of my own dark heart demand this price. The world is real, badly broken, and in need of healing. It requires a divine sacrifice and an incredible passion. It requires that the Virgin’s heart be broken and that His disciples be scattered and torn. It rends the veil of the Temple in two and restores access to all to the hidden Mercy Seat of God. It is Real, the Blood of Christ. It is the basis of our redemption and the drink and life of the Kingdom of God. There is no Kingdom without a proclamation of that Blood.”Sin stains are washed in its life giving flow.” I am a sinner, chief of sinners. Wash me like Longinus in your blood. Like Peter may I confess that I have denied you. Like the thief on the cross may I see you in Paradise.
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