We asked some FX Staff and Friends how they speak about the Cross, especially with unchurched folks. Here is Part Two of some of the responses we got. Our hope is that these responses (here’s Part One) can provide you with some good food for thought, good ideas, and even spur some great conversations this Holy Week!
In a recent gathering of Living Room Church, a completely digital form of church, we discussed a new way to talk about the cross… the Jesus Antivirus Model.
Think of it as a “divine defrag” of the virus-infected hard drive of the universe. Sin causes fragmentation at every level of creation: fragmentation in our relationships with God, each other, and to creation itself. This breech leads us to acknowledge in our hyper-individualism that something is lacking. Shame pushes us into isolation.
Jesus incarnates himself in the virus-ridden network, in a specific “node” called Nazareth. Like anti-virus software, Jesus draws the virus infecting the system into one location, concentrated in his own body on the cross. “He carried in his own body on the cross the sins we committed. He did this so that we might live in righteousness, having nothing to do with sin. By his wounds you were healed (1 Pet 2:24). The “rulers and authorities” gather collectively at the cross and are “disarmed” and triumphed over in a public spectacle (Col 2:15). All the forces of moral and natural evil—imperial evil, religious evil, demonic evil—converge literally in an earthquake in one place, in one moment in time (Matt 27:51). There, concentrated in the pain-wracked body of Jesus himself, with the virus of sin isolated in his own flesh (2 Cor 5:21), he takes on “our shame” in himself (Heb 12:2), and destroys its power through his own sacrificial death (1 Cor 15:55-56).
Through the resurrection, ascension, and sending of the Spirit, every Christian becomes a microcosm of Jesus, a cell in the larger body. We become the anti-virus, spreading reconciliation throughout the whole system (2 Cor 5:18), until Jesus returns to bring the new creation in all its fullness (Matt 24:30, Rev 21–22).
Communicating the Cross and Good Friday
Though its date changes, when we celebrate Easter and the days leading up to it each year, we remember an historic event.
It’s called Good Friday– though it may not seem good. On Good Friday, we see the darkness and brokenness of the world, of humanity. On Good Friday, we are thrown into disappointment and abandonment. On Good Friday, we catch more than a glimpse of the Roman tool of death and destruction, the cross, and the suffering Jesus bore on it. On Good Friday, we watch, with tears in our eyes, feeling like helpless bystanders who don’t want to see what we are seeing, don’t want to feel what we are feeling, yet are forced to look, to see, to feel.
The cross was where Jesus innocently suffered at the hands of others. This shows us that God “gets it” when we suffer and is in solidarity with us in it. He’s been there.The cross was where Jesus innocently suffered at the hands of others. This shows us that God 'gets it' when we suffer and is in solidarity with us in it. He's been there. Click To Tweet
The cross was where God looked weak. A very bad thing happened to a very good person. This shows us both that God is still all-powerful, even when he looks weak, and we don’t know why he doesn’t step in and stop bad things from happening.
The cross showed sacrificial love. Imagine loving someone enough to give your life for them. That’s true love. Jesus went through the pain of human death in order to conquer its finality.
The cross initiated a new era of history for us to participate as bringers of life and goodness and love– the things of God.
On Good Friday, we meet Jesus at the cross. It’s not a place we choose, nor anything we would wish on anyone, let alone the Son of God. That’s why we have to trust God knows what he is doing. If a cross can turn into something good, anything in our lives can too.
Sharing the cross and resurrection with people who are unfamiliar with the Story is an interesting proposition.
I well remember a conversation I had with a local theater director some years ago. I had invited him to attend our church’s annual Easter production, and then offer some feedback from a theatric perspective. At that feedback moment over coffee, he said, “First of all I was impressed by the quality of your acting, music, set design, etc. But, as you moved along in your story, I suddenly remembered that you guys believed in re-living the horrific crucifixion and macabre tomb scenes. That made me flinch, and frankly, I never recovered. While I doubt it is possible for you to do away with that part of the story, I sure wish you would.” His reaction parallels what many unchurched people feel when hearing about the cross – the gore and cruelty overwhelm them.
Further, our explanation about the cross tends to revolve around the refrain ‘he died for our sins.’ This phrase often confuses and frustrates those who hold to a secular worldview; they simply do not think of their lives in terms of their sins.'He died for our sins.’ This phrase often confuses and frustrates those who hold to a secular worldview; they simply do not think of their lives in terms of their sins. Click To Tweet
Given these ‘flinches’, we might do well to meditate more deeply on the explanation of the gospel that was used primarily for the first thousand years of church history – that Jesus’ work on the cross was an act of ransom. Jesus’ commitment to free us from the oppressor’s grip was so great, even to endure the shame and suffering of a Roman execution. Here are some important “ransom” verses: “He gave his life as a ransom for many” (1 Tim. 2:6); “For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors” (1 Pet. 1:18-19).
Lord, give us the ability to speak of the cross to the never-been-churched people that populate our towns.