Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Supreme Symbol of Help and Hope (by Peter Black)

A disaster happens somewhere in the world, and it’s likely that—where political systems allow—Red Cross personnel and vehicles, bearing the large emblem of a red cross on a white background, are dispatched in response, bearing emergency supplies to help people in desperate need of life-sustaining essentials. (Of course, we acknowledge that much good work is also contributed under the emblems of the Red Crescent and Red Crystal, among others.)

Scores of Christian-based NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations) are often there helping, funded by donations from people like many of you, who embrace the message and meaning of the Cross. My niece Gillian works for a Christian-based NGO, and recently returned from central America, where she was involved in coordinating humanitarian projects. 

Hitler’s Nazi Swastika, with its angled (let’s say, bent and broken) arms, is perhaps the most widely reviled form of cross—the antithesis of the Cross of Christ; not of help and hope, but of hate and genocide.

I’m glad the Cross is the supreme symbol of help and hope in the world. Good Friday’s commemoration of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ reminds me that out of the ugliness of crucifixion—among the most excruciating, slow and painful forms of execution ever devised—has come healing, help and hope to countless millions.

It is reckoned that as many as 1,000,000 crucifixions took place throughout the provinces of the Roman Empire during the first century AD. Intended as punishment for criminals and rebels, it also served as a warning to others. Yet, only one crucifixion, one victim and one cross led to the ugliness of crucifixion’s becoming this revered symbol of help and hope. And that was when Jesus of Nazareth—the helper, the healer, the friend—died on an old rugged cross. 

Why should this stake of barbaric execution, with its dark and bloody association with the torture of the worst of criminals, be revered and embraced as a beloved symbol? The cross is forever beautified by the One who hung upon it—the sinless Son of God incarnate who, through His sufferings and death, paid the price of all humanity’s sin and rebellion and resistance to God’s grace. 

Jesus was betrayed by a close associate, abandoned by those of His close circle, rejected by a frenzied crowd, and mocked by bigoted religious leaders who plotted his death, and forsaken by God His Heavenly Father. It was all in the divine plan, predicted centuries beforehand in various scriptures (e.g. as in Psalm 22; 41:9; Isaiah 52:13-53:12; Zechariah 12:10).

The Cross is offensive to some people, but it’s not so much the symbol, as its message (see 1 Corinthians 1:18-30). Is it offensive to your view of yourself and God? Does the biblical teaching that we humans have so offended God that we need to be redeemed and reconciled to Him, and forgiven and cleansed, offend you? Do you have difficulty accepting the assertion that we can’t do it by our own effort, all by ourselves?

The Cross strikes at our sense of self-sufficiency and self-dependence; knocks the notion that self-improvement is our pathway to our ultimate destiny and eventual delight. 

How wonderful the understanding that, since we’re unable to atone for our own sins (faults, failings, self-willed thoughts and actions, arising from human weakness) which separate us from a ‘right’ relationship with God, He in mercy provided the solution. In Jesus, God paid the debt, making possible our restoration to personal relationship with Him. 

The means was the Cross and the One who gave up His life on it: “. . . God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him!” (Romans 5:8-9).  
Let us embrace more than this supreme symbol of help and hope, and in faith embrace the Christ of the Cross who is our help and hope—our Lord and Saviour, Redeemer and Friend. 

Peter A. Black is a freelance writer in Southwestern Ontario, and is author of “Parables from the Pond” – a children's / family book."  (Finalist -- Word Alive Press ISBN 1897373-21-X )
His inspirational column, P-Pep! appears weekly in The Guide-Advocate. His articles have appeared in 50 Plus Contact and testimony, and several newspapers in Ontario.



Eleanor Shepherd said...

Thanks, Peter for this reminder of the importance of the Cross for all of us. It is easy for us to shy away from such a gruesome reminder of the sufferings of Christ and yet it is our hope.
Warm regards,

Carolyn Wilker said...

Thanks, Peter, for putting all this into perspective, including the gruesome death Jesus suffered for us. Good Friday, pardon the term, is such a difficult service.

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