Isn’t it ironic that such a hated symbol of cruelty and oppression in the Roman empire has endured till this day as a symbol of God’s amazing love? This death that was reserved for the worst of the worst is the symbol recognised around the world representing God’s love and self-sacrifice.
These days so many people wear cross necklaces, or cross charms and they have no idea what it represents. That jewellery gives you an opportunity to talk to them about it. But what would you say? The main thing I would focus on is how the love of God is expressed at the cross.
A few years ago the movie “The Passion of the Christ” came out and a lot of people went to see it. I have to confess I was one of those who didn’t go. Just the thought of it was too much for me. Yet Christ chose to not just watch it, but to go through that suffering himself—suffering which is too horrible for me to even watch! Why? Because he loved me. He wasn’t forced into it. He could have stopped the pain at any point, but he didn’t.
Why? Because of his obedience to his Father and his love for us. Romans 5:8 says, “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” We were not best buddies when Jesus took our punishment for us—we weren’t friends, nor were we acquaintances. We weren’t even people that God didn’t know. We were his enemies (Rom 5:10). In the verse before the above one Paul says, “For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die” (Rom 5:7).
Isn’t that right? If you had a best friend or your spouse or children, you would perhaps choose to die in their place. I know as a father and husband I wouldn’t hesitate to give my life for my kids or wife. But would you do so for your neighbour? What about fuel attendant down the road? What about some unknown person from across the country? Well you may, but it would take a Victoria’s Cross level of courage and selflessness.
But that doesn’t equal what Christ did! What Christ did on the cross would be like you dying for that neighbour who always yells at you and calls council to get you in trouble. It would be like one of the Jewish people in WW2 offering to die in place of Hitler, or you choosing to die in place of a person who has murdered your family. It’s incomprehensible isn’t it? It’s not even nice to think about it! And yet that is exactly what the Bible says Jesus did. Verse 10 tells us, “while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son.” The amount of love that Christ shows us at the cross is staggering.
But wait, there’s more! We know that the physical pain wasn’t the worst thing that Jesus went through. Because he took our sins (our guilt before God) on himself, his heavenly Father, who had loved him for eternity in perfect harmony and relationship, turned his face away from Jesus as his anger and judgement towards us was expressed on Jesus. That’s when Jesus cried out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me” (Matt 27:46).
All the physical, emotional and mental torture that Jesus went through pales into insignificance in comparison to this relational separation from his Father.
And Jesus went through all of the physical pain and all of the gut wrenching separation from his Father for us while we were still his enemies. And what’s more, if I was the ONLY person in the world that needed to be saved, still Jesus would have chosen to do so. He would have gone through all that for me.
So if you want someone in your life to really consider Christianity, maybe you should simply ask them if anyone has ever shared with them about how much God loves them. If they are doubtful about that, just share what the cross tells us about his love. Read Romans 5:6-11 with them and help them see his love for them.
If people you speak to truly grasp this truth, it will change their lives. Christianity isn’t about a set of rules to follow in an effort to try to please our God. It’s about that central symbol of Christianity—the cross, and how it represents the love of God. It’s about how we live our lives in thanks to God for that sacrifice.