Two years ago, I watched an unpopular senator get re-elected though many thought she’d finally met her match. However, she got ahead of her opponent and defined her for the public. By the time the challenger came out with her ads saying what she would do as a senator, few people were listening. They already had her labeled, courtesy of Ms. Unpopular.
That political race told me a lot about how the public works in this day and age. We deplore attack ads, but we listen to them. We may not even realize we are, but it shows when people start saying what they believe about this or that candidate — the material is often straight out of the opponent’s playbook.
In the same way, Christians are allowing non-Christians to define us, to the point that we’re buying into it ourselves. Worse, we are parroting the ideas, as if they have merit, as if they are true.
I heard one on Sunday that really bothered me: Protestants don’t like to think about Jesus on the cross. All that blood and death makes us want to look away. The Catholics, now they embrace this dark side of salvation. By implication, the idea was, So should we.
I admit, I felt a little defensive — mostly because the accusation is scurrilous. In my church we regularly take communion, and until recently that was a time of reflection on Christ’s sacrifice, His broken body, His shed blood. How many times have I sung “Alas! And Did My Savior Bleed” or “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” or “‘Tis Midnight, and on Olive’s Brow” or “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded”?
That contemporary song writers are not writing about Christ’s suffering doesn’t mean that Protestants don’t or haven’t put an emphasis on what Christ did in dying.
In addition, I’ve heard from our pulpit more than one sermon about Christ’s death, none more powerful than “Death on a Cross” that graphically took Christ through the scourging and beating and humiliation and nails and hours writhing in pain, to the spear piercing his side and proving his death. (You can listen to a sermon from the same text in the book of John by the same pastor, this one entitled “Jesus: A Lamb Led to Slaughter”)
I find it ironic, though, that we should be taken to task for focusing on Christ the resurrected Lord seated at the right hand of God. I’ve heard more than once that the cross Protestants display is barren because Jesus didn’t stay dead. He is, in fact, a risen Savior. Easter is a joyous time.
The cross is significant, no doubt. Paul says clearly that our “certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us which was hostile to us” was nailed to the cross. Without Christ’s death, we’d still have the burden of what we owe — an insurmountable burden.
The cross affected Christ in every facet of human existence. He was forsaken, betrayed, denied, humiliated, rejected, tortured, misunderstood, condemned, doubted, and killed. For me. For you.
Yes, it was bloody. Yes, it was pain, like few have experienced. But focusing on the physical alone is to miss the wider scope of what Jesus did. He bore our sins. The Man who had the nature of His Father, who lived accordingly, took on the stench of his fallen brothers — that which separates us from God.
How can that be? A Holy God, bearing sin? An immortal God, dying?
It is by Jesus’s blood we are sprinkled, by His precious blood we are redeemed. How can anyone say, Protestants look away from the cross? Perhaps they’ve mistaken our weeping for closing our eyes.