Let’s live in the way of the cross
As I have travelled around and spoken about grace, the mission of the church, who we are to be, in places such as Sydney North Presbytery, New England North West Presbytery, Tenterfield, Glen Innes, Inverell, Blaxland and Glenmore, with the chaplains of the University of Western Sydney; as I have dealt with matters of discipline within the church and correspondence which often flows from it; again and again I am challenged to reflect on this unconditional love of God for us which is grace and what that means for us as we live out our Christian lives.
As Christians and as a church we seem to have a very big “but”: “I believe in grace but (here insert whatever grievance, experience, person that makes grace impossible in this circumstance).”
Easter is what it is all about for a Christian. It is the canvas on which the depth of grace, the astounding image of God has been portrayed; the image of what things look like if we are people living in the way of Jesus.
And there are no buts in this picture. Easter is the palette from which we paint our individual lives and relationships, the mission of the church, the way we view the world and the decisions we make about it.
As I look at the portrait of God on the cross I see unconditional love given expression to in a way that words fall far short of.
- Undeserved punishment that was accepted and endured as witness to and a example of a different way of being;
- A costly way of standing up to the authority, powers and forces of the world without resorting to their tactics and which, to all appearances, seemed hopeless;
- A place where, despite the injustice, forgiveness was offered to all who had participated in perpetrating that injustice (without any request for it);
- The means of transforming the lives of those who were observers — the criminal on the cross — the soldier at its foot;
- The place where it was acknowledged that this grace was painful — “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?”
But there is more to this portrait! There is something beyond the cross. Unexpectedly, as one looks closely, it is like a doorway through which we see light, we see hope, we see joyful life.
And, whatever one believes happened on Easter Sunday, what the Easter story portrays is that living in the way of the cross leads to life, is about life, life in all its fullness, God-filled life that cannot be destroyed and, indeed, is creative and life-giving.
How do our lives reflect the way of the cross? How does the mission of the church reflect the way of the cross? Is what we do a reflection of the unconditional love of God?
Or do we have another agenda?
What is our mission? To fill our churches? To convert people to Christianity?
No! Our mission is about giving expression to the unconditional love of God, to live in the way of Jesus and, in so doing, to allow God to raise up new life.
“Father, into your hands I commit my Spirit,” Luke 23:48 (NIV).