March 14th, 2016

The Tragic and Triumphant Cross Leading to Hope for Us All” 

cross33“We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us and we ought to lay down our lives for one another. How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?”

“Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action. And by this we will know that we are from the truth and will reassure our hearts before him whenever our hearts condemn us; for God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.” (1 John 3:16-20)

“Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us.”

“By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and do testify that the Father has sent his Son as the Savior of the world!” (1 John 4:7-14)

The most remarkable statement in the first letter of John is the revelation of God’s essence: “God is love”. The entire letter might be described as an explanation of this statement. this divine love is not the kind of love that we often see in movies, songs, and popular culture. The Greek word John uses is agape, which is the commitment to seek te good of the other.

We know that God is love because of his actions, his self-disclosure in the world. And the highest manifestation of God’s love is the cross. we might tend to describe love as a powerful emotion or a comfortable feeling. but God has shown us that the best definition of love is not to be found in words, but in the concrete symbol of the cross. The cross describes love as self-giving; “We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us.” The cross reveals to us, in the most compelling and undeniable manner, that God is love.

It is a hazard in every age that genuine love deteriorates into sentimentality. The divine love that we have been shown in the cross of Christ is not sentiment. The cross convinces us that the forgiveness we have been given in Christ is not an easy pardon, a cheap grace, a divine shrug that pretends the horrible rift of human sin never happened. Rather, Gd’s love penetrates to the heart, where sin and indifference reside, and deals with the root causes of our separation from God. “He loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.” The healing and reconciliation that only true love can create is established through the work of atonement, a process that was prefigured by the blood sacrifices of Israel’s ancient Yom Kippur and completed in the self-offering of Christ on the cross.

The cross not only reveals God’s love, bu it motivates us to manifest God’s love through our own lives. Because Christ laid down his life out of love for us, “we ought to lay down our lives for one another.” The love of God should never flow into our lives without also flowing through us to others. To receive God’s love and then refuse to share it with others is to turn the living waters of God’s love into a stagnant pool. This offering of ourselves for others is done through very concrete actions, like helping “a brother or sister in need.” Mere words are never enough when it comes to expressing love; true love demands action.

God’s love manifested on the cross is not just a revelation to be admired, but an example to be imitated. Not only is God’s love revealed through the sacrificial actions of our lives, but it is “perfected in us”. The historical manifestation of God’s love through the cross of Calvary is continuously consummated in the loving deeds of God’s people. When God’s love is reproduced in us and expressed in the world today through sacrificial service and love of neighbor, God’s love is completed and achieves its full effect.

Reflection

What types of loving deeds reproduce and express the cross of Christ in the world today?

Prayer

Loving God, the cross is the greatest sign of your love for me. Motivate me to manifest your love in the world and to perfect the work of Christ’s cross through offering myself for the good of others in need.

Amen

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