An Unexpected Symbol

Without a doubt, it is the power of the Resurrection that gives our faith hope – but it is the Cross that defines the very nature of that power.

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Living in the upside down, in a tortured inversion of cultural mores, where tolerance is most celebrated by its intolerance of opposing views, where we’re told that fighting racism requires us all to segregate ourselves into irreconcilable roles of perpetual conflict – no amount of common sense could ever hope to unravel such a Gordian knot of self-delusion. For the narrative of these neo-Gnostics, pretending to have awakened to some deeper truth, has so poisoned the well of civil discourse with its pseudo-moral pretense – no one dare object . . . out loud. But we all know it’s broken – even if we’re not allowed to say so.

But this is just one more iteration of the brokenness of a self-deluded world. Just one more variation of the palpable upside down that fills us all with unease — the ever-present reminder of our own fallen natures on full display. If truth be told, we’ve lived in the upside down for so long that the right side up isn’t readily apparent to us, except for maybe a glimpse of it breaking through into our lives – but even then, we’re tempted to respond in an upside down way . . . assuming that having the power to control our circumstance will somehow set things right.

But such a Nietzschean “will to power” assumption is part of how things got so upside down in the first place. In fact, to view everything in life as a power struggle invariably places us back in the Garden of Eden, believing that we could somehow self-exist as our own god – making the world conform to our own image. Is this not how we experience the upside down of the world, imposing itself on us, on every level, in the world today? In this way, history replays, again and again, the same broken scenario – wanting so desperately to be free of our chains, we can’t seem to resist the impulse to forge new chains.

Jesus was born into a backwater portion of the Roman Empire. It was a cruel and unforgiving world where Roman authority was absolute. It was an authority maintained by the brutality of violence – a threat of violence constantly reminding the people of who had the power . . . and what happens to anyone challenging their authority. So it was within this context the Roman practice of crucifying criminals and subversives came to symbolize the stark distinction between the powerful and the powerless. So for the Romans, the cross was an ultimate display of power . . . and those who hung upon it were the pitiably powerless.

As profound as the Resurrection is to the Christian confession, it is the Cross that has become the unexpected symbol of our faith. Without a doubt, it is the power of the Resurrection that gives our faith hope – but it is the Cross that defines the very nature of that power. For it is the Cross of Christ that inverts our upside-down understanding of what real power looks like. Rome, in all its self-assured grandeur, fades into history as one more empire come and gone – but ironically, it is their symbol of brutality that survives the test of time . . . not as a symbol of how the mighty control the world . . . rather, as a symbol of how self-emptying love saves the world. So we take up our cross and follow Him.

. . . and for the Christian, everything begins and ends at the cross.


This is an updated post originally published on Still Chasing Light
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