21 April 2015
It’s a very simple equation: the saving work of Christ on the cross enables us to be free of the way we used to be and enables us to live our lives - with each other, in community, in the world - differently.
I don’t know if you’ve noticed a certain all-pervasive attitude on television in recent years? From talent shows, through shows about strangers making each other dinner, via stand-up comedy shows, to shows about watching people watching TV, there’s a particular underlying attitude to all of them. We find ourselves watching how quickly and strongly people form opinions about the people and events they are observing. Their opinions are often naive, critical, harsh, cruel, spiteful; making huge assumptions about people they have never properly met and couldn’t really know; situations about which they know very little indeed. And then, of course, there are the Social media websites where cruelty and criticism can reach new, extremely damaging even dangerous heights. The ascendancy of Opinion over Truth.
They are a perfect illustration of what it means to be human today. Humankind - certainly in this country - has developed a critical spirit. A spirit that damages ourselves as well as others. A spirit based on projecting our unhappiness unkindly, unjustly, and sometimes cruelly on to others. And, what’s worse, if someone put a camera on me sitting on my sofa watching those people with their deeply critical spirit on TV, you would think exactly the same of me. To my shame, I find I become just as critical, unkind, cruel. That’s the way The World has caused humankind to become. It rejoices in catching us in its net, in dragging us down to our worst, selfish, self-centred behaviour.‘Ah well,’ we say and shrug, ‘that’s the way the world is…’
Does it have to be?
Of course it doesn’t.
That’s the whole point of Easter.
Humankind has been released from being controlled, driven, formed and forced to be that way. The image of Jesus on the Cross is saying precisely this. In fact, The World and it’s cynical, critical, attitude towards people it knows nothing about, and cares even less about in its selfish, self-centred, self-absorbed way, is why Jesus ended up on the cross in the first place. But even then, on The Cross, pinned there by humankind’s fallen and foolish, worldly and self-centred attitude, Jesus says: "it doesn’t have to be this way". And then he forgives The World. He forgives humankind. Humankind has been so caught up in the ways of The World that it is actually unable to see there could be any other way. Which is why, even on the Cross, Jesus says:
“Father, forgive them (us) for they do not know what they are doing”.
It doesn’t have to be this way. And it’s easy not to be this way. We need to learn not to have this critical spirit. To deny it; to close it down whenever it appears. And the quickest way of doing this is, the moment we notice it appearing in our spirit, to turn to The Cross. To hold on it, look up and see Jesus hanging there saying: Forgive.
Forgive as we are Forgiven. Love as we are loved. Live in community with one another. Respect one other. Serve one another, rather than expecting others to serve us.
We ‘sin’ when we miss the point of The Cross, when we fail to turn back to see Christ on The Cross at critical moments, and carry on being the way The World tries to make us be. Instead of the way Christ encourages us to be; died so that we could live this better way, freed from the snares of The World. Amen