A few 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 by defining her for the public through a number of attack ads. 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 Incumbent.
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 do, but it shows when people start saying what they believe about this or that candidate—they often parrot material straight from the playbook of one candidate or the other.
In the same way, Christians are allowing non-Christians to define us, to the point that we’re buying into their judgment of us. Worse, we are regurgitating the ideas, as if they have merit, as if they are true.
I heard one a few years ago that really bothered me: “Protestants don’t like to think about Jesus on the cross.” All that blood and death supposedly 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 usually that has been 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”?
We no longer sing those hymns, but the fact 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 us through Christ’s 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 Christian Protestant Evangelicals should be taken to task for focusing on Christ, the resurrected Lord, seated at the right hand of God. In fact, the cross Protestants display, whenever we do, is barren because Jesus didn’t stay dead. He is, in fact, a risen Savior. But is this a point for which we should be ashamed?
For all Christians Easter is a joyous time, less about mourning Christ’s death, and more about celebrating His resurrection.
The cross is significant, no doubt. The whole idea of communion is to obey Christ by remembering His body broken for us, His blood given for the forgiveness of our sins.
In Colossians 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 insurmountable burden of what we owe.
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 painful, 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 perfect Father, who lived accordingly, took on the stench of His fallen brothers—the sin which separates us from God.
How can that be? A Holy God, bearing sin? An immortal God, dying?
It is by Jesus’s blood, by His precious blood, we are redeemed. Without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness. So we bring to God nothing but our broken and contrite hearts. How can anyone say, Protestants look away from the cross? Perhaps they’ve mistaken our weeping for closed eyes.
This post is a revision of one that appeared here in March 2012.