The Way of the Cross

The Christian’s primary character trait should be love for God. The second is like into the first: love for neighbor. The essential character trait of a Christian, then, is love.

But, what is love?

I think the essence of love is the desire for and the willingness to sacrifice in order to preserve right relationship.

But, who is our neighbor?

I think that every human person is our neighbor but especially those human persons to whom we are close in some proximity whether of geography or blood or organization.

But, what is right relationship?

With respect to God, I think that right relationship is one of maximal submission to his will. With respect to neighbor, I think that right relationship is one in which all parties are cooperating to be maximally submitted to God and each other.

There are great blessings that attend right relationship. With respect to God, one experiences inexpressible joy, peace that passes all understanding, and hope that will not be disappointed. In addition to these internal blessings, one receives power to preserve this right relationship and to extend these blessings into one’s relationship with one’s neighbor. With respect to neighbor, one experiences peace, joy, and hope to the extent possible in this fallen world. One enjoys cooperation and camaraderie in the enterprises and entertainments of life.

But, what is the way to right relationship?

In both cases, we must turn from that which prevents relationship and turn in humility, submission, and sacrifice to the other party. The problem is not so different in either case. At bottom, that which prevents relationship is our own sinfulness. We must repent of that sin and commit ourselves to the other party. Then, we must walk through life with that other party, continually submitting in love.

With respect to God, this is so much the easier in that the other party is a perfect being. He will never be in the wrong. The only problems that will arise in the relationship will be of our own making. With respect to neighbor, this is not so. The other party is as equally sinful as we and so the whole enterprise of right relationship is that much the harder. However, God has given us the perfect way forward and the solution is the same in each case: the mediation of Christ. Just as with God, the problem preventing right relationship was the sinfulness of the other party, so too with us, except that our problem is magnified by our own sinfulness. Just as with God, the solution was a third party to serve as a perfect mediator, so with us both in pattern and in person. Jesus Christ both reconciles men with God and with one another. The key to reconciliation on both cases is simply for us to follow in his footsteps.

But, what does it mean to follow in his footsteps?

The truth is that following in Christ’s footsteps means tirelessly carrying our cross up a hill on which we will painfully suffer all the while being ridiculed and rejected by the very ones for whom we are suffering. Only those who truly love will do that for someone else. But, that is precisely what love requires: the death of self no matter the shame and suffering. It is only when you are willing to die for someone that it can be said that you truly love them. This death of self is not often literal, although it may be.

But, this death on the cross must be more than just a show. There must be a genuine death. The old self must not only be displayed upon the cross in a show of love but it must die on that cross, be buried, and be forgotten.

The way of the cross is the only way to reconciliation with God and our fellow men. The way of the cross is the only way to the fulfillment of our duty to love God and love our neighbor.

Will you pick up your cross and follow Christ? Will you be crucified with Christ, buried with him, ridiculed and rejected by the very ones with whom you wish to be reconciled?

It is only when we are willing to do this, to follow the way of the cross, to truly die to self for another, to be buried and forgotten, that we can be reborn to newness of life and experience the joys of reconciliation. And, the promise is that if we follow the way of the cross, then God will raise us up and we can walk with him and our fellow man in love.

3 thoughts on “The Way of the Cross

  1. Beautiful article! – Only one consideration. It seems to be a very man-centric message, or in other words, the ‘way of reconciliation’, or ‘The way of the Cross’ is being defined as what you and I do, don’t do, or should do.

    Scripturally, we are reconciled to God, by Christ, by His blood, and because of His Obedience to the Cross (Romans 3:21-25, Romans 5:19) not our own suffering, submission, works, attempts, or “blood sweat and tears” as it were.

    (All of those things are important and are the fruit that follows Christ’s obedience, but making those things the ‘key’ is putting the cart before the horse, otherwise, the Law would have been just fine, Christ was unnecessary our own efforts take the place of his efforts or at least says that His were not adequate, that the Cross needs our additions, and in a sense, this fulfills the comment of the Apostle Paul, that ‘Christ died in vain’.)

    I would say, the Key to our Christian Walk is our response to Christ’s sacrifice, and to sacrifice likewise, but we can never be just like Him, nor do the works of the Cross again, and that that is not the sole key to us being reconciled. Christ was the sole key to our reconciliation.

    Romans 5 defines this verbatim! It is All In HIm.

    Rom 5:8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
    Rom 5:9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.
    Rom 5:10 *For if while we were enemies we were reconciled* to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that *we are reconciled*, shall we be saved by his life.
    Rom 5:11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, *through whom we have now received reconciliation*.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey, dad! Thanks for your thoughts. Here are my thoughts in response.

      According to Paul, the redemption that was purchased by Christ through his work is God’s gracious provision that must be received through faith (Romans 3:23-26; Ephesians 2:8-9). What this means is that “reconciliation” is neither equal to “redemption” nor automatic. The redemption is already purchased for all men by the death of Christ but not all men are currently reconciled to God (nor will all be reconciled ultimately). We are “reconciled to God by the death of his Son” *through faith* according to Paul. Thus, to be precise, it is not true that “Christ [is] the *sole* key to our *reconciliation*”. Again, this redemption must be received *through faith* in order for a person to be reconciled. If “Christ is the sole key to our reconciliation” were true, that would mean salvation is “by grace”, period (or, maybe, “by grace through grace”!) but, of course, that’s not what Paul said; he said it is “by grace (God’s provision) through faith (our response)”. The fact that we must respond correctly to God’s grace in order to be saved does not mean that salvation is “of our own doing”. Thus, to point out the fact that we must receive with faith the redemption purchased by Christ in order to be reconciled is not “man-centered” if by that you mean improperly oriented or just wrong.

      But, what of my metaphor that “receiving by faith” the redemption purchased by Christ is like “taking up our cross and following Jesus to death, burial, and resurrection”? Is that somehow “man-centered”? Paul himself compares being reconciled to God (which presupposes receiving the redemption of Christ by faith) to dying, being buried, and resurrecting (Romans 6:1-4). Jesus himself told those who would follow him to deny themselves, taking up their cross and following him to death, burial, and resurrection (Matthew 16:24-26). Therefore, I don’t think to use this metaphor is man-centered.

      But, maybe you are saying that to expound on this metaphor may make it sound like being reconciled to God is hard and to make reconciliation sound hard is man-centered? Well, Jesus said at one point: “How hard it is to enter the kingdom of God” (Mark 10:24; see also Acts 14:22). So, there is a sense in which being reconciled to God is hard. I’m simply saying, on the basis of the metaphor used by Paul and Jesus, that the sense in which it is hard is like us taking up our cross, dying, and being buried. Faith requires us to reject our sin, deny ourselves, and submit ourselves to God (which is like carrying our cross, dying, and being buried). That’s hard!

      In conclusion, it seems to me like your objection to this post is either based on a conflation of “redemption” with “reconciliation” or a denial of the applicability by metaphor of the death and burial of Christ to receiving the redemption purchased by Christ through faith. As I’ve argued in this response, either path is problematic as, as far as I can tell, my post is based on an explicit biblical metaphor for the proper response of faith to the redemption purchased by Christ and is rooted in Paul’s conception of salvation. Therefore, I don’t think it is “man-centered” to point that out and poetically expound on the metaphor (such as when I say that to follow Christ is to be “tirelessly carrying our cross up a hill on which we will painfully suffer all the while being ridiculed and rejected by the very ones for whom we are suffering”).

      Love you and Lord bless.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Tre,

        It seems more of a semantics argument, when attempting to switch the divisor and the operand in this particular equation. And no way am I even attempting to wrestle math with you … I’ll lose every time.

        My point being, no where in Scripture are we taught that this is going to be easy – automatic, or autonomous, and in fact, that is my primary argument against the mainstream Charismatic/Pentecostal view that promises health, wealth and prosperity, and your “Best Life Now” if you just speak positivity. You nailed it – this Christian walk is one of perseverence.

        But I think that the math equation gets reversed when we say that our response is the requisite of Grace, rather than Grace being the propellant of our response. And when I say response, I’m directly relating to human effort above and beyond absolute trust in the finished works of the Cross. Any additional ritual, tradition, regulation or rulesets is the Gospel++. Or as John Wesley put it, Second Works of Grace.

        You said, “If “Christ is the sole key to our reconciliation” were true, that would mean salvation is “by grace”, period”

        And is that not true?

        “For by Grace, you have saved saved, by Faith, And Not Of Yourselves. It Is the Gift of God.” (Eph 2:8-9)

        The crux of my argument is that it feels like the message was, “Once, and if you work for it, then and only then you can be saved.” Scripture quite literally teaches us however, that the operand is on other side. Receiving the free Gift in Faith is definitely required, which puts the human element in, but addition to Faith, as being defined by later works of righteousness, ritual, or man’s efforts, traditions, rules, regulations and or ‘codes’ to obtain reconciliation, or salvation, does not align to the message of Scripture.

        In other words, ‘receiving by faith’ is just that, receiving, by complete trust, that what Jesus did upon the cross was sufficient to affect the atonement if the Gospel. (Col 2:4) From Adam to today the message (promise) has been the same. Did Adam and Eve have to do some things to receive God’s gift? No – they had to trust the Words of God and walk by faith. They failed to do that. The same has carried down throughout the entire OT and NT. God gave His people the fruit of inheritance, and all they had to do was walk by Faith to receive it. They failed to do that. Jehovah split the seas, and all they had to do was walk by faith, and even that was a challenge. They were preserved in the wilderness and given dominion over foreign countries, and all they had to do was receive it by faith, and they failed to do that.

        We seem to be facing the same challenge today, and that is Trust. Trust in the finished works of Grace. Adding to that indicates a lack of trust, and thus, lack of faith. FOr myself, I conclude that if I believe God’s work, accomplished through His Son wasn’t adequate, but it needs me to make up the difference, I am not trusting in him. A theologian said, If we feel that way, we must believe that Satan’s work in Adam was more effectual than God’s work in Jesus.

        But I say again, that does not mean that man has no responsibility to respond, to walk in faith, and as you beautifully articulated, carry the cross. Christ never promised ease, but rather hardship and suffering for His names sake. One I gladly accept because He First Loved Me.

        The gospel is for man, not by man, in my estimation. And I don’t mean to conflate reconciliation and salvation, I don’t see a difference.

        Blessings, keep up the great work!

        Like

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