Monday, January 23, 2006

The Way of the Cross is the Way of Love

I was recently thinking, as I often do, of my young friends in Ethiopia; brothers and sisters who have paid a terrible price for choosing to follow Christ. They have been cast from their homes. They live as refugees in their own communities, cut off from friend and family, often the target of violent attacks. Whenever I have the honour of visiting them (which isn’t often enough) I am always moved by their readiness to die for Christ, if this would be the price that God calls them to pay in their walk of discipleship.

What would compel someone to be ready to die for his/her faith?

I think a significant clue to answering that question can be found in John 15:13 where Jesus said that the greatest expression of love is when one friend lays down his life for another. Sacrifice in this passage takes place in the context of relationship; love, friendship.

Our relationship with Jesus Christ is intended to be more than just a belief in Him; more than an affirmation of theological and biblical truths. We must meet Christ in love, not simply in our thoughts. We are called to a relationship in which we surrender to His live for us and in doing so, we fall in love with Him. For those of us (like myself) who tend to live in the realm of thoughts and ideas, this is not a comfortable thought. Indeed, all of us, like our parents in the Garden of Eden, feel an irrational pull to hide when we hear the voice of the God who loves calling out to us.

But knowing God is this way, knowing Him in love casts out all fear (1 John 4:18) and it is fear than keeps us from following Him recklessly and unashamedly, regardless of the cost (1 Peter 3:14, 15). Obedience to the point of death is the consequence of a surrender to the person of Christ, not simply an acceptance of an obligation.

So what could compel someone to be ready to die for his/her faith? Love. Love that blossoms from the heart of a man or woman who has meditated on God's love for him/her and who responds in kind; a person who meditates on the cross of Christ, God's ultimate expression of His love, and in response, picks up a cross of his/her own. The way of the cross is the way of love.

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