Monday, December 05, 2011

Defending the Cross

The ACLJ - The American Center for Law and Justice sent me an e-mail today regarding a Petition to Protect the Cross. This link will give more information, but here is one explanatory paragraph:

At Camp Pendleton, an atheist group is challenging a cross put in place by a few Marines in honor of four heroes who died in Iraq. An atheist group says the memorial sends a message of "exclusion." And on the battlefield in Afghanistan, the U.S. Army has removed a cross that's been in place in front of a chapel. An atheist group declared victory saying its removal protected "civil rights and neutrality towards religion."

Certainly it is a noble effort to protect the rights of the Marines who placed this cross in honor of their fallen comrades and the nation’s fallen sons. Certainly this cross should be protected from removal by those who want to cause injury to the soldiers and their families and to Christians in general.

However, is this really what should be concerning those who profess to be Christian? Should Christians not be more concerned about what has been lost within Christendom that makes the presentation of the cross weakened to such a degree as it has been? Shouldn’t Christians be paying greater heed to the warning of St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 1:17?

St. Paul literally says: “. . . that should not be made empty the cross of Christ.” What good is an empty cross. Yes, this includes a cross without the corpus, but more importantly this is a matter of the cross being emptied of anything more than symbolism. How many Christians and even churches even know what the preaching of the cross really is?

Moreover, what is the value in defending a cross that has been erected when those claiming to be Christian refuse to agree on what it means? When the preaching of the cross has become so broad that the Church of Rome in their Council of Trent declared that to agree with St. Paul’s preaching in Ephesians 2 is anathema, and at the same time most Protestants declare that what St. Peter teaches regarding Baptism in 1 Peter 3:21 must be forced into a context that denies that Baptism saves us, and at the same time the very resurrection of Christ can be treated as a myth by liberal Lutheran churches, yet these all are counted as “Christian,” what on earth does it mean to defend the cross?

How on earth can the cross be defended without agreement as to what this means?

Actually, it seems that it does mean the same to most who imagine that defending the cross means to fight against the legal actions of atheists. And this is why the atheists believe that they can be effective. What does the preaching of the cross really mean to most Christians? Actually, this is not even the language universally held anymore. The cross is merely a symbol to most.

This is why people imagine that the cross needs to be protected. The cross does not need to be protected. The cross is our protection!

If Christians believed this, instead of erecting crosses they would be preaching the cross and receiving the protection that it gives. Instead of arguing over whether or not St. Peter really means that Baptism saves us, they would rush to the waters of salvation and rejoice that through this means God promises to save us through union with Christ’s death and resurrection, that is, being crucified with Christ to sin and raised with Him to the new life of righteousness and holiness into which the gift of the Holy Spirit in our baptism guarantees. This is what St. Peter declares in Acts 2:38-40. St. Paul expresses the same in Titus 3:4-7.

If Christians were united in confessing what these Scriptures teach, then they would also gladly and eagerly believe and confess what the Scriptures teach concerning the Supper of the body and blood of Jesus for our unity in His body and for the remission of our sins through His blood.

This is why St. Paul warns against preaching with eloquence and wisdom of words, for these always work to empty the cross of what Christ has done and continues to do. Human reason always tries to explain away what seems like foolishness of the cross, trying to reduce it to human wisdom, and thereby undoing the work that the cross works.

If the cross were preached as the Scriptures declare it, if Christians were united in this confession or homologia (same-Word) the cross would work among them with such power that nothing in the cosmos could counter it. Rather than building monuments to the cross and rather than defending these monuments that they have built, rather they would eagerly gather to the cross where it is offered, in the means of grace. If this is how Christians acted, the whole world would see and no one would imagine any need to defend the cross.

But in sinful unbelief mankind always seeks to do and claim what belongs to God. The works of the cross are God’s works. As long as Christians try to elevate their works to mingle them with God’s works, they will continue to try to defend their Defender and to save their Savior.

It is interesting that when lifeguards are trained, their training often includes how to disable the person whom they are saving. Often the drowning person must first be overpowered and rendered unable to resist the saving efforts of the lifeguard.

Christians would do well to apply this concept to their understanding of who they are as Christians.

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