Why crucifixion?

Yesterday’s news that one of my preaching mentors, Robert Schuller, passed away out in his beloved Orange County California, gave me an opportunity to reflect anew on something he used to say in every Good Friday message from his pulpits both in and out of doors. He said the cross was God’s way of turning a minus sign into a plus sign. I considered that quite profound the first time I heard it, and no less so even now when I think about its truth.

We live in a world of heartfelt minus signs. There are losses and “take aways” and subtractions of every sort today. We react with fear as our deepest emotion. “What’s this world coming to?” Ever ask yourself that one? For every minus in our lives, we sense fear. And the great temptation when sensing our own fear is to sow that same fear in others.  Misery loves company, I suppose.

The Jewish religious leaders in Jerusalem at the time of Jesus were deeply afraid of Jesus. They saw him as a minus sign in their own world. He was a threat to their own power and position and status. By sewing their fear among others, it didn’t take too long for everybody to “catch the spirit” of fear, including the Jewish laity and even the Roman officials. The first line of the cross was the minus sign aimed at subtracting Jesus from their world. So he was “taken away” and crucified.

Metaphorical crucifixions take place around the world even today whenever fear spreads its evil wings.  Robert Schuller was right, however, in noting that it takes two lines to make a cross. The line drawn by God Himself was straight up and down and represented His own greatest love for us as His children. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life” (John 3:16). When God’s love is applied to human fears, our minus sign becomes His plus sign. That’s what the cross of Jesus Christ represents to me on this Good Friday, 2015. Today’s challenge is to go forth into this weekend sowing and spreading love, not fear, and watching how quickly the world can change for the better.  On the positive side!

Thank you, Rev. Robert Schuller!

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One thought on “Why crucifixion?

  1. I so rarely draw a comment in this space. I will choose to leave one myself as a sort of post script to the above. Where psychology and theology cross as academic disciplines is quite often at fear’s main intersection. Fear produces a great deal of behavior in humans and a great deal of religious belief as well. Fear’s results make the news headlines in some way everyday. The Germanwings plane crashing in the Alps was filled with fear, starting with the co-pilot who feared going on with his own life of apparent emotional pain. The Indiana statehouse was filled with fear on both sides of this “Religious Freedom” issue. Fear has a way of morphing into phobic avoidance for some folks and into delusions of persecution for others. Yet, the classic human reaction to fear is that of DENIAL. We are afraid to admit to others and even ourselves that we are afraid. And because none of us want to face our fears and talk about them, we never resolve them. We close in around our own fears, and in so doing we never can open up to God’s love for us in Christ Jesus. Fear’s double bolt locked doors keep Jesus from entering. Today’s best practices in both psychology and theology communicate this message: “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love” (I John 4:18). HAPPY EASTER TO ALL!

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