Saturday, February 03, 2007

The Radical Optimism of the Cross


A few days ago I blogged about a video David produced from "In Rejection of Mediocrity". The video was titled, "It's about the Cross". I asked the question in my title, "Have we forgotten anything?" I've been thinking a lot about this and wanted to go a little deeper into this question. I think some of the deep spiritual significance of the Cross has been lost in our post-modern world. This is troubling to me and I hope to you. The Cross holds in it two very opposite truths and realities.
  1. The Cross demonstrates some of the most sinful actions of men.
  2. The Cross demonstrates that God can work through even the most sinful actions to accomplish his perfect plan.
There is a radical optimism found in the very ugly reality of the Cross. What is this radical optimism? Let's discuss this...

To begin with, we read in Hebrews
12:2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of [our] faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured thecross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

To the one who endured the Cross, the radical optimism was the joy awaiting him on the other side of it.
Jesus no more wanted to be nailed to this cross anymore than we would want to. He pleaded with His father in the garden of Gethsemane that he would allow the plan to be diverted. Let's take plan B as I don't think I can do this! We all know that God had no plan B. The way for all men to be reconciled to God was through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. Because of the joy that was before Him, Christ found radical optimism in the Cross.

Another part of the radical optimism of the cross rests in the what Jesus said in
John 12:32 "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all [men] unto me."
Jesus knew He was the answer to man's sin problem. And He still is today. Remove from the Christian faith the Cross and we have no faith at all. It is foundational to our faith.

The radical optimism of the cross was that we would accept the
substitutionary death of Christ and pick up our own cross to carry.
Matthew 16:24 issues the challenge, "Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any [man] will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross
, and follow me."

The radical optimism of the Cross beckons us to a life of service unto God. Paul writing to the Corinthians in his first letter to them writes in 2:2, "For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified."

I think what Paul was interested in knowing with this statement is, "Has the radical optimism of the cross changed your life? That was the important factor for Paul. Has the power and glory of the Cross, changed you?

Today some consider the Cross of Jesus Christ as something too gory to talk about at church. It's just too ugly of an event to spend much time on. Somehow the Cross has become offensive to many Christians. It's
ok if it's reduced to a piece of ornamental jewelry we showcase around our neckline but that's it.

What happened to telling the story of a Savior who died a horrible death for all of humanity? Why have many churches steered away from preaching the cross? Paul even said in 1Corinthians 1:18,
"For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God."

Could this be true? Is the power of God held in whether or not the cross is preached? I think it is. The power of God is demonstrated in the Cross.
God took such horrible acts of sin and made it a wonderful gift to all humanity! Only God could do that and it demonstrates to us all the radical optimism God saw in the cross!

Do you see the radical optimism of the cross?

11 comments:

jozlin said...

Yes the idea of the cross is radical optimism. And Christianity wouldn't be the same without the events that took place around the cross. If Christ came to Earth and didn't have die on the cross and rise again the major events that followed wouldn't have happened. What would Christianity be without the Pentecost? And if Christians don't preached about the cross then how can those who don't know ever have that epiphany. It has been my experience that when someone "gets" that they are saved by grace it is that what makes them realize they are saved.

Colin Lamm said...

Shannon,

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Too often I have seen suffering apart from the reality of the joy that awaits. As Paul also says, "But may it never be that I should boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world" (Galatians 6:14).

paul said...

awesome - i love it and an excellent reminder of how radical the cross is - both as an image, an action and an invitaiton to live life on terms other than self and for sacrifice, servanthood and suffering for others to experience reconciliation and redemption in our communities and culture...

Glenn said...

It seems that the social aspects of the Gospel have been the biggest emphasis in emerging and missional circles. That emphasis is needed because it has been overlooked for too long by evangelicals.

Yet, I have this concern that salvation and evangelism have taken a backseat and I have not found much in terms of an articulated perspective.

The good news is about Christ. His death on the cross did make redemption and restoration of all creation, especially people, possible. This relationship with God or following of Christ is begun or activated by faith.

It seems like every time the pendulum swings, it swings a little too far. There are always excesses, abuses, and oversights with our theology.

Shannon said...

Jozlin,

Girl, you been away from here too long! :) I hope you are enjoying your new home.

Your comment is great and I appreciate you stopping in...come by more often :)

Shannon said...

Colin,

I absolutely love that scripture. By Paul's writings, one can surely see that he understood the importance of the cross.

Shannon said...

Paul,

Your comment about the optimism of the cross being an action and invitation is really great! I appreciate those words in this context because so many times the cross is reduced to nothing more than a mere artifact of Christian history. The wisdom and power of the cross is alive!

Shannon said...

Glenn,

I fully agree with your comment. The seemingly absence of the cross in the emergent/missional conversation has been a concern to me. I've only been in this particular conversation for a couple of months and I just don't see it much, which is in part why I've posted a bit on it as of late. :) I would love to see more of it in the emergent/missional circles.

Jason said...

Hmm I dont see the cross as being forgotten at all in post modernism. I see it being focused in on more even. I see old rituals with deep meaning becoming more relevant again.

But the point isnt to focus on only the cross either. The cross obviously is significant but the life of Jesus is more significant to me. Heaven here on earth now, that is what Jesus was about. His dying and resurrection was to fulfill prophecy and to allow that restoration to happen. So while important it cant be our only focus either.

Shannon said...

Jason,

Thanks for you comments!

I wonder what type of Christian community you are part of. In my experience the "Cross" and the preaching thereof is more likely to happen in traditional settings as opposed to say emergent churches or missional. I'm a fan of both I might add but what I see and hear lead me to this conclusion.

There is no doubt the life of Jesus is incredibly significant but the life of Jesus minus the cross and you have a very good man. That's it, nothing more. While the cross and what it represents to the Christian faith must never be the only focus, I believe it has to be central where all other focuses find their true purposes.

Jason said...

I have been to many "emergent" type churches including a part of a church plant with some of their ideas behind it. I even attended an emergent conference in Nashville a couple years ago, and McLaren, Bell, Kimball, and many others all seem to be very pointed that the only way to truly live (whether here on earth, or some time in the future) is only possible with a life patterned after God in flesh, Jesus.

And the only way that was possible was the fact that Jesus bore the sins of all on the cross. I think what happens is, the emergent crowd tends to tear things down to the core and ask hard questions, and in the end we are left with Jesus, whole and pure.

I find the cross as my true salvation from a life of nothingness. I think most "emergents" will think the same way. Where the church gets caught up though is when they think their way to the cross or from the cross is the only way. Their interpretation is the only one that matters. Thus, why people have actually written that someone like Rob Bell (who utilizes scripture more than anyone I have ever seen)does not believe in the Bible. When the real statement they are making is they don't believe in my personal version of it.