A death on a cross is a scandalous, horrific, and shameful thing, something detailed all too well by Mel Gibson's film, The Passion of the Christ. That Jesus died on a cross, and for the Christian, that it was necessary is not a matter of debate, in question is why? (See recent previous posts for more on this.)
Not too long ago it was popular to where bracelets with the letters WWJD. (What Would Jesus Do) The faddish nature of this gradually became appalling, but the initial idea was a fine one, if not a terribly distressing one. (What might the actual implications be?)
The answer to the question, What Would Jesus Do, is given to us in four different gospel narratives, making the answer at times all too apparent. In the end, Jesus died! God died! And before this? He was a poor man, with no place to lay his head. A lowly servant who taught his disciples that the first will be last and the last first, that they must pick up their cross and follow him, that we must love our neighbors as ourselves, and our enemies, yah, we have to love them to.
The common narrative (penal substitution) on the death of Jesus describes Christ’s death as balancing a cosmic account book. One in which all the sins of all of humanity are blotted out by the death of Christ. We then have only to receive this free gift to obtain eternal salvation. There is nothing in this narrative that I think needs to change, rather it is what is not in this narrative that is so terribly disconcerting. The last few posts have detailed a matrix of metaphors by which the cross has been and is being communicated. For most Christians in most places, these metaphors have been refined and simplified down to one controlling view point. “Jesus died to… (fill in the blank)”
In contrast, I believe that Christians would do well to first reengage the cross of Christ devotionally, spiritually, and meditatively. And second, reengage it theologically, examining the variety of historical and contemporary ways the cross has and is being understood. The past few posts have given us a starting point for doing that but are hardly sufficient. None of this theological re-examination needs to undermine orthodoxy or even Evangelical orthodoxy. (Though feel free to question even these assumptions if your so inclined. I believe your faith will be stronger for it.) Rather, a fuller understanding, will, I believe, drive us to radically alter the way we behave.
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