Friday, September 3, 2010

“LIVING UNDER THE CROSS”

There are many ways we can approach scripture. If you are of the Jewish heritage, you would approach scripture reading only the Hebrew Testament. Then, you might fall into one of several categories, Orthodox, Conservative, or Liberal. Each of those would approach scripture a different way.

It is no different with Christianity. There are numerous denominations. Each one has its own “spin” on how we live out our lives as believers and/or disciples of Jesus Christ. The article on this blog would be extensive if I attempted to categorize them all. That is not my purpose.

What I want for us to consider is a Lutheran approach. The approach I’m talking about takes scripture as a whole and looks upon the writings as the story of God interacting with humanity from its beginning, represented by Adam and Eve and moving forward in history – namely, space and time – to the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. When we look through that lens, we might find ourselves discovering the intense love of God toward humanity throughout all of scripture, with the intensity reaching a crescendo at Golgatha where Jesus hung from a cross. It is there where we meet God and God’s love. It is there we come to witness the power of God as God uses death to overcome death. It is there where we see humanity, represented by Jesus, humble itself and open itself totally to the power of God and God’s power of love that gives new life.

All of Biblical history comes to an apex at that cross and then carries us through to the empty tomb.

If we believe that approach, then it is at the cross we must go. It is there we realize that we are powerless over the world. It is there where we meet the face of sin. It is there where we get a of glimpse of Jesus’ love for us and what it means to be his disciple.

No one wants suffering. No one looks for suffering. Yet, it seems that through suffering, we find God. Through suffering, we find Jesus. Through suffering, we begin to understand Jesus’ call to us and the way of the cross.

When we approach scripture as described above, we hear several significant comments of Jesus that all connect to one another: 1) Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind; and love your neighbor as yourself. 2) Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. 3) Lose your life for my sake and you will find it. 4) Pick up your cross and follow me. 5) Die to self so that you might live. 6) Love one another as I have loved you.

It is only in suffering that we are able to follow Jesus’ instructions. The initial basis for suffering has to do with “picking up our own cross and following Jesus.” It seems to me a basic component of experiencing this is to be open to the Spirit and to be willing to lose one’s ego for Christ’s sake. To do so is not painless. To begin to do so begins a process of experiencing one’s own sin as character defects and personal shortcomings. To do so is to begin to see the world through the eyes of Jesus and see the world’s approach to life that is counter to Jesus’ call to discipleship. To do so is to identify and acknowledge “the other.” We recognize the marginalized, the outcast, the scapegoat, and sinners like us, those who have no one to speak for them.

“Losing one’s self” and/or “dying to self” is not meant for us to be door mat, used, or manipulated. Losing and dying help us to reach a higher level of self-differentiation that brings to us an understanding of who we are and Whose we are. Through the power of the Holy Spirit we develop, sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly, a more personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ.

It is in this dying and losing, and it is in the cross-carrying, that we are able to begin to experience loving others as Christ has loved us.

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