In preparation for the upcoming Christmas season, I decided that I needed to focus on the cross a bit more. I know, I know, this seems a little strange that in preparation for the celebration of Life and Light I would be focusing on Death, but as you know, I’ve never been one to do things the “right way.” One reason I’m doing this is because of the emphasis that’s been placed on Matthew 5-6 as Gospel rather than the entire picture that’s painted in the four epistles that tell the story of Christ.
This isn’t to say that that focusing only on the cross is Gospel either, but since my attention has been so deeply rooted on some of the Brian McLaren’s and others of this generation, I think it’s best to give credence to the reformed side again as a counterweight that will keep me balanced rather than crashing into either extremely liberal or conservative theology.
The postmoderns have argued that by focusing on the Cross too much, we’ve missed what Jesus says and we’ve missed how Jesus lived. They’ve shifted the attention to the teachings and the behaviors of Jesus while he was living. They’ve used statements like “The Kingdom of Heaven is here…” to show us that we, too, can live differently and invite Heaven into earth.
While this is well and good, a downfall to this line of thinking is that it begs the question: if all we need to do is behave according to the Beatitudes and other teachings of Christ, then why did Jesus need to die? Couldn’t he have taught these things and then mentored His disciples into the kind of people who would cause these behaviors to flourish among the human race?
If Christ’s life and teaching that (as Rob Bell says), “You Don’t Have to Live This Way” are the end-all-be-all of Gospel, then we’re no different than any other religion out there with a set of appropriate behaviors to follow in order to attain heaven. And I think this is why I see a lot of my friends in this generation looking at other religions with interest. Since they’ve come to believe that the Beatitudes are the only Gospel, they don’t see any need to follow “Christianity” since they firmly believe that Christ’s teachings are better practiced in Buddhism, Islam, or Humanism.
But here’s the thing: Death is the distinction between Christianity and the other major religions out there. And forgetting the Cross is the most dangerous thing that we can do to our faith.
I’m going to be honest, I haven’t spent much time thinking about the Cross lately.
I’ve been wrapped up in being a father to my son and a husband to my wife. I’ve been trying to live out the teachings of Christ in my family. This has been an honorable pursuit which has stretched me and made me give up a lot of the things that I held near and dear to my heart- but it’s also made me lose focus of Christ’s Death. It’s made me forget that the only reason I’m able to live the way I do is because the “old way” has been put to Death with Christ.
So I’ve decided to spend my time prior to Christmas working through a book by John Piper. It’s called The Passion of Jesus Christ: 50 Reasons Why He Came to Die. I figure that spending a bit of time each day thinking about Christ’s death will help me put the Cross back into perspective during a time when we’ll be celebrating Christ’s birth. I’ll post thoughts here during the week and I’d love to have a conversation with anyone who’s reading along.
In fact, I’d love to have you join me for this exploration of Christ’s Suffering and Death. Even if you don’t like John Piper or don’t agree with Christianity, it might be an interesting way to think through the next few weeks.
So if you want to read along with me, you can download the book in .pdf form by clicking on the link below or pasting it into your browser: http://www.desiringgod.org/media/pdf/books_pojc/bpojc_all.pdf
I’m looking forward to the conversations!
Nathan Key likes to think about faith and philosophy and talk about it with others. He lives with his family in New Hampshire. He doesn't always refer to himself in the third person.