I’ve noticed that I am hearing less and less in our Churches about sin and repentance, although the cross maybe lit up behind us in Neon lights, how often does Christ’s death, sacrifice or the atonement actually get mentioned.
I praise God that as Church we are grasping what it means to live ethically and sustainably, I love the renewed passion for justice that liberation theology has brought us, I want to “be Mission Shaped”, “Grow Leaders” and “make authentic indigenous disciples” -all the Church is rightly talking about, yet I wonder if we inadvertently think we have moved on from talking about the cross of our redemption.
I have talked a lot about ‘keeping the most important thing the most important thing’, for Paul the most important thing was “proclaim Christ, and him Crucified”.
The Cross is at the heart of Paul’s writings, at the heart of the Gospels (Mark spends the majority of his gospel on the crucifixion) and I believe at the heart of the whole of scripture, the Old Testament hinting and giving glimpses towards Good Friday.
The Cross ought to be at the centre of our lives, our hearts and our minds.
Yet for me, I think I need to think about the cross daily, because I know I sin daily, I know my need of a Saviour, my need of forgiveness, I know that sin still hovers at my door and can so easily entangle, I need to encounter the cross and the blood daily. I thought that by now, 21 years of following Christ, I’d have this Holiness thing sorted, and I do praise God that he has changed, moulded and shaped me, but I do now that I am not by a long way a finished product… more over I think it is scary how easily I could, can and sometimes do slip back into sin and old habits.
The problem is we become more secretive about our failings which causes shame that destroys us internally and the charge of hypocrisy that destroys us externally.
That is why James writes “Confess your sins to one another so you maybe healed” -all of us remember those occasions when we have shared something with someone else, brought it into the light, and felt God set us free.
To be honest with God and ourselves is the best thing we can do instead too often we get better at justifying ourselves and appeasing our consciences.
I’m not saying this to ‘air my dirty laundry’ but rather that I think we need to have the honesty, vulnerability, integrity and self awareness to admit that although we are beloved children of God, we are also sinners in need of a Saviour.
To often we make repentance something we did when we come to faith, rather than something we need to do all the time.
In my home Church growing up sin, the cross was mentioned all the time and sometimes it didn’t always feel like it was good news, and it is good news… but to understand the extent of the good news of redemptive love, we need to know that bad news of our inability to save ourselves, when we realise our inability to pay, that the cost was beyond us, that enables us to grasp a little of something of the enormity of what Christ has done.
People have accused me of being very condemning, and saying this idea will make us constantly feel bad about ourselves. I don’t agree, I believe that having a right understanding of sin, and a cruciform theology, actually keeps us perpetually being reminded of God’s love for us, his grace and his mercy, as well as his power to live our lives his way.
When we encounter the crucified one, we cannot escape encountering the risen one too.
It’s real to be aware of our sin, it’s counter cultural to apologise, even the boy band blue told us that “Sorry is the hardest word”.
In our world nobody admits they are wrong, nobody takes the blame and so often apologies come with a whole lengthy speech on why they were right and you were wrong it little speech, lets be people that are prepared to hold our hands up and be honest as to our failings. It will shock people, they wont get it, they may take advantage and it might annoy your boss, but I believe it will be something deeply challenging that I doubt they will forget in a hurry.
The less we confess our sins and make restitution the more it eats us up inside (as does unforgiveness which is another blog for another day), the more we are Christians try and make everything okay and go with the flow of the culture the less and less we talk about the need for forgiveness.
I remember at college a friend of mine had quite a liberal theological upbringing, but was a Christian, at a talk by Graham Cray on the cross (one which didnt pull its punches) he was in tears at the front of the crowd on his knees… and afterwards he said “that was the first time I felt forgiven”…
My challenge is does our Christian life and our Christian thinking drift away from the cross?
Lets be people who share the fullness of the message so the extent of the good news can be grasped.