Pain, sorrow, poverty, sickness, disease, violence and death have no redemptive value.
They are not a part of God’s plan to save the world. They are what Jesus came to save us from.
We need to remember that this weekend.
This Good Friday and Easter Sunday, we will have remembrances and celebrations of the cross. Some crosses will be backlit and draped with cloth. Others will be decorated with lilies. We will sing songs about the Wonderful, Beautiful Cross. All of that is good.
But let me encourage and caution my fellow pastors about something as we honor and praise what Jesus did on the cross. We must leave no room for misunderstanding. Let’s be very clear that this is not a celebration of violence and death, but of Jesus’ victory over it.
I’ve never known a church to glorify violence on purpose. But over the years I’ve heard far too many sermons and watched too many passion plays that seem to emphasize the pain and violence of the cross as if pain was the point.
Pain was never the point.
The cross did not become glorious until the tomb was empty.
Why Take Up Our Cross?
When Jesus told the disciples to take up their cross and follow him, I do not believe he was telling them to suffer for him. Some have suffered greatly. Many, including me, never have.
But I do believe he was asking us to be willing to suffer for him.
There is a great difference between the two.
Being willing to suffer is noble. Wanting to suffer is some kind of sickness. Not alleviating suffering whenever we can is sinful.
Jesus doesn’t call us to suffering. He calls us to joy, hope and love. But he was honest enough to let us know that the path to all those wonderful things goes through some painful territory.
Life involves suffering and pain with or without a cross. The cross of Jesus gives purpose to that suffering. It calls us to speak and act redemptively within our suffering. And to relieve the suffering of others. Continue reading