I Hate the Cross of Christ
Author's Note: This is a confession. I write these words as I struggle with the sin tangled deep in my DNA. As a Christian, I know the beauty and value of the cross and I am not denouncing it. But, as you will see, the cross messes me up. Big time. I write to help bring clarity to my own struggles, but also to attempt to give words to those who can't explain their own unsettling experience with the cross.
When I survey the cross
Ah, the glorious, bloody, disgusting, offensive cross. My least favorite part about being a Christian. I have no shame in saying this. The cross and all its symbolism are offensive to me. They repulse me. I hate it.
The scene of the cross is everything my "holiness" upbringing screamed against. Excessive violence, mockery, alcohol, nudity, and murder all have cameos in the triumphant story of Jesus. It offends me. Let me explain how:
The cross of Jesus offends my senses as a human being. I don't wish death on anyone, but especially not this type of death. I would be perfectly fine with a world that has no violence, yet God himself suffered violence at the hands of his own creation. Which brings me to my next point...
The cross of Jesus offends my intellect. It is said that the cross of Jesus is what freaked out Fredriech Nietzsche because he just couldn't understand how the all-powerful God could allow himself to be tortured like this. This eroded Nietzsche's sense of logic and he then turned away from religion. I see his point. It is hard to sync the logic of this world and the foolishness of the cross. If I daily pursue more personal power and popularity, then why should I worship someone who freely gave it all up? The cross doesn't make sense. Speaking of popularity...
The cross of Jesus offends my cool. It ain't cool associating yourself with the ideals of the cross. The phrase, "Hey let me tell you about a bloody naked dude who was tortured and killed" never gets you many friends. Going to church, denying yourself, and following the path of Jesus in the way that he directs us to is not the path to popularity. I like being popular and loved. I seek it. Call it an acceptance deficiency that comes baked-in to adopted kids. I want to be like the cool kids. With my ego, I want the cool kids to be like me. The cross doesn't fit into that worldview.
And let's be real for just one second, Christian culture has tried to make the cross as cool as possible by skirting the realness of the situation. A focus on the cool benefits of Jesus death demands a focus on what's best for us. Co-opting the cross for personal gain is the goal of many Christians (this, I confess, includes me). The best metaphor for how we carry our cross is the diamond-encrusted Jesus piece that hangs from our necks. When you turn a symbol of suffering into a symbol of success you've missed the point. About missing the point...
The cross of Jesus offends my ambitions. The point of Christianity is to live as Christ lived. How did Jesus live? I borrow from Brett McCracken's take on Phillippians 2:5-11:
I am supposed to live a descending life. One that gives up control to the one who gave up control. To sacrifice comfort to the one who sacrificed ultimate poshness. I am supposed to love even when it hurts because of the one who hurt because he loved.
And my ambitions are instantly crushed.
When I first started with this website and church-planting project I secretly had some ambition to prove that I could do it—that I am smart enough, capable enough, ambitious enough to build something.
The cross of Jesus is offending me out of this type of thinking.
And you know what. I am super-uncomfortable admitting that.
My Hate is Sin
I easily recognize my hate as sin. These feelings that I have toward the cross need to be nailed to the cross in surrender. The cool, the ambition, and the pride that suggests that I know a better way to live than God himself needs to be put to a glorious spiritual death.
Jesus submitted to the destiny of the cross just so I could also submit to my destiny of the cross. To be truly alive, we must first taste the death of our shackles and chains. And in the deep heart of the night, my ultimate yearning is to be alive.
So, do I hold on to this hate because it is the comfortable known? Or do I take the Via Dolorosa that Jesus has paved for me? Both are pain. Both are extremely uncomfortable. Only one is sin.
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