An instrument of death becomes our means to life.
by J. Grant Swank, Jr.
“I am not ashamed of the gospel . . .” (Romans 1:16, NIV).
Carrying the cross in a pleasure-centered world is not the prettiest picture. That is why our culture does not want the cross except as an art piece around a neck or hanging from an ear.
Even the church does not want the cross except to bring a simplicity of balance to the sanctuary front or to cap a building’s spire.
When one moves the cross from jewelry or architectural design to the bloody piece of crucified flesh outside Jerusalem, only a few will couch down with one fellow and a clutch of shaking women.
The cross brings shame. It is what the Old Testament prophets predicted: the place where the unseemly was naked, torn, and shredded so to bring nothing but death gasps from those looking one. “Our eyes desired not to behold Him.”
Shouldering the cross
Yet that cross is what Christ would dare to have His own pick up, strap to their shoulders, and carry through the city streets, trudging out into the countryside along spring meadows and sparrows in flight.
Because that cross sets forth the contradiction of the whole gospel base.
God came into the world to make of it an Eden. Human free will botched it up by biting into Eden’s fruit, concluding by such pleasure that creature would be Creator. In that flush of success, humankind fell tragically into too many dark dimensions — beyond verbiage.
So it is that what most contradicts the pleasure-crazed planet must be planted in the cross of all history — the bloody, shame-riddled cross. Only such a startlingly macabre scene can hopefully shake some poor souls into sense. And it does.
For all who have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb have come to the point where they have seen through the utter emptiness of things and toys and giggles of worldly pleasure. So done in by that awful glee, these repentant ones have flung themselves upon the contradiction: the cross.
In that they have come upon the pleasure of all pleasures: Christ himself.
And where is He? On the tree. For what reason? To invite us there. For what soul purpose? To cleanse us by His blood. In what real sense? In the real sense of releasing us from our gnawing pride of life and to set us free from our needling fears.
Yet the world simply does not get it; and it never will. So it is that the cross-bearer carries a dreadful, daily shame. He is made out to be dumb, befuddled, thick in the head, insensitive to pleasure, boring and dry-boned, frazzled and frizzled, frumpy and nit-wit, shallow and flat affected.
Sweetness of the cross
Do you now see more clearly the contradiction woven into the Fall of all things?
Whatever worldlings consider apex, the cross-bearer knows to be losing. In that is the cross-bearer’s shame. Yet in that shame is the sweetness of the cross. It becomes sweeter still the more one clutches the cross, kisses its pleasures, marries oneself to its Lord and knows that there is nowhere else to call “home.”
That is why Paul, an early follower of Christ, and countless others have claimed the shame of the cross as no shame at all. From eternity’s perspective, it is indeed no shame at all. How so? Because the very cross becomes the bridge to light and life, eternal glory, pleasures evermore.
Shame? As far as the world defines it, the cross is shame.
As far as the cross-bearer knows it to be true, it is only sweet peace, the gift of God’s love.
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