Has the Cross Become an Idol?

Here it is! Easter Weekend is almost here! It’s time to bask in the glory of our savior’s resurrection from the dead and triumph over evil, sin, and death! This is the time that God so chose to enter our lives and our ability to meet Him in His fullness because of the victory we encounter in Jesus Christ’s precious life. Do you know how blessed we are to live in a time that we have complete access to our heavenly Father without the need to constantly be killing animals? Easter Sunday is the most precious time of year for the believer in Jesus. But there’s one event that separates us from the joys of Easter morning. One dark, gloomy event that has cast a shadow over all Christendom. One that we cannot ignore, or push aside. Yes, I am talking about Good Friday.

How in the world is Good Friday “good”? It’s the day that the person we call God Incarnate was nailed to two pieces of wood and suffocated for hours on end until he eventually couldn’t take it anymore and died! “Good Friday” indeed! No, we would much rather skip straight to Sunday and forget about the agonizing pain of Friday and the unknown silence of Saturday (more on that next week). Why in the world do we see the cross as a good event? Because it is good, but maybe not the way you think it is.

Most of us view Christ’s death on the cross as some kind of “payment” that he made to God on our behalf. We cannot pay the immeasurable amounts of sin that we collect throughout our day, especially before we were Christians! So the story goes that God, in all of His anger, had to kill things in order to vanquish sin from the midst of His people. This came in the form of animal sacrifice. Animal sacrifice, according to the story, served as a placeholder for Jesus until he finally decided to show up on the scene and die on the cross, “for our sins”. Yeah, okay. So you’re telling me that the presence of sin is so powerful, our sin, that we somehow compelled God, the Creator of the whole cosmos, to kill Himself? It sounds like God came to free Himself from the presence of sin rather than to save us from our sin. Moreover, it sounds like theistic suicide, or at very best, “cosmic child abuse”. It is suicide because Jesus is God and Jesus died at the hands of God (per the story). It is cosmic child abuse because God is so violent when it comes to sin that He decides to punish His Son who did no wrong in order to satisfy His violent tendencies. This also pits Jesus against God because Jesus loves us so much that he’ll pay our debt in our stead, defying God’s divine rule that each person must be holy and perfect as He is! So is God also schizophrenic? Is this really God? This God sounds weak. This God sounds violent and abusive. This God is not loving. See, that’s a problem because 1 John tells us that God is Love. So, according to this story we’ve told ourselves, this god isn’t God. Even worse, God doesn’t do the saving. The cross does. The cross has become God. The cross has become the idol we are told to throw away.

That’s not even the worst of it! This story reduces all of Jesus’ life, three years of ministry, countless (per John) miracles, healings, parables, meals, laughter, tears, hardships, exorcisms, prayers – all of that – to no big consequence. Let’s also not forget the thirty years of Jesus’ life we have no idea about! All of that, thirty-three years on this earth, all led to the cross. That’s like saying that the only thing that matters when buying a house is making that last mortgage payment. That erases every other day of those thirty years to nothing! Think of the kids that you’ll have in that house; the parties; the fights between you and your spouse; the garden that you planted. All of that was for nothing. No, the release of debt is the only thing that matters, right? If the cross really is just a “payment” that Jesus made on our behalf, his resurrection doesn’t even matter. What’s the point of living again if by the cross, “the wrath of God is satisfied”? This story we’ve told ourselves shows us that the god of the “payment” method is in fact violent, abusive, and suffers from multiple-personality disorder. It also tells us that Jesus’ life, miracles, or even his resurrection matter about as much as how many licks it takes to get to the center of a tootsie pop. But I have good news for you: This isn’t God!

‘But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith in (a more accurate translation is “faith of”) Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.” – Romans 3:21-26

So, according to the Bible, through the faith OF Jesus, He died in order to display God’s righteousness by showing us our fate apart from God, to free us from that fate by justifying those who have faith IN Jesus.

“For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.” – Romans 5:19

The cross of Christ is a display of evangelism. It points us to the grace God has for us, that Christ stood in our stead and vanquished the effect of sin and death. This renders Jesus’ life in its entirety (yes, even those mysterious thirty years) of utmost importance, because he lived the perfect life in absolute obedience and oneness with God. This shows the glory of the cross, that Jesus died to point us to God, to destroy the effects of sin and death, to bring us to God, not God to us. This highlights how we also must live. Galatians 2:20 tells us that, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Christ’s example on the cross was another teaching. Just as Christ died willingly to kill sin, we must also die to ourselves and live in Him – free from sin! This highlights the importance of the resurrection, the resurrection was also another teaching, “We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” – Romans 6:4.

How in the world can we view God in any other way than a God who loves us and wants to draw us to Him? That is the cross. That is the life of Jesus. That is the joy of Easter morning and the goodness of Good Friday. Stop idolizing the cross and pick it up to follow Jesus better.

 

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