Tuesday, July 12, 2016

At the Cross

As we discussed yesterday, we are living in a world where the human heart is so entitled that even something so amazing as grace seems "fair," as though grace is just one more thing we are entitled to, one more thing we are expecting, one more thing that God owes us because God is, after all, God, and God does grace. So if God does grace, then grace just happens, and it is a part of our experience not because it's amazing but because it's expected. And so we judge grace not by its awesomeness, but by its fairness.

That seems fair.

What's most troubling about this thinking that permits us to think such bland thoughts about grace is that grace inevitably leads to Golgotha, and sadly, here, too, we have decided that this...is fair.

We've decided that it's fair that God Himself should die for our sins. After all, He made us. He put us in this broken world. He refused to destroy the fallen angels at the moment of betrayal. He surrounded us with temptation. He gave us free will to choose the wrong things. He made faithfulness and discipline and integrity the hard things in a world that's got a lot of easier options for us. He made all the strict rules that are impossible for us to remember, let alone follow. He took all the fun out of this life that He's given us. So absolutely, it's fair that if anyone is going to fix things, it ought to be Him. If anyone is going to pay the price for the way things are, it's God. If anyone should die for the horrible nature of this world around us, it's Jesus.

That seems fair.

Yes, this is really where theology stands for many of us. This is really where we are. This is what our hearts are telling us is true. The Cross? It's not amazing; it's expected. It's exactly what we would expect for God to do in a situation like this. And it's what He should do. He owes us the opportunity for things to be possible. He owes us the possibility of His promise. So of course, Calvary. Of course!

And for those who have recognized this shift in our theology, for those who bristle at the idea that we've come so far as to say that the Cross seems fair, the response is often to go too far in the other direction, to try to recapture the horrendousness and the spectacle of the crucifixion. This, too, is a failed theology. This, too, is the wrong image of the Cross.

We simply cannot live in a heart that tells us either that the Cross is gruesome or a given. Both twist the very real story of grace that took place on that hill.

What we have to do is stand there, to behold the broken Jesus with our own eyes. We have to be willing to look at the blood and the gore and the tears, to hear the mocking in the soldiers' voices, to hear the pain in the mother's cry, to listen to the conversation of the thieves. We have to put ourselves there, where drops of sweat and blood mixed and fell onto the sacred ground, where a crown of thorns told us that this was our King. We have to dare to look at Him, to look at this innocent man who would not even speak a word in His own defense because He was too busy defending us. To look at this man whose hands and feet were calloused, but whose heart was tender still. To look at this Son of God, and to know...

This isn't fair.

It's not fair. And for all the blood, all the sweat, all the tears, all the noise, it's not gruesome, either. It's gory, but it's not grotesque. It's...beautiful. It's...breathtaking. It's...amazing. It's...


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