Monday, January 26, 2009

Christ centred or cross centred

Really, it shouldn't matter, should it - whether we say our organisation or church is Christ centred or cross centred? As far as our behaviour and attitude are concerned it shouldn't make any difference at all. But it does. At least in my experience, it does.

I've belonged to a number of Christian and para-church organisations and I've realised that Christians have some very variable ideas about Christ. Not who he is as such. I think we can all agree that he was born about 2000 years ago in Bethlehem. He lived for about 33 years and was crucified. From then on we start to draw apart. Most (I hope most) would agree that he arose from the grave physically and for almost 6 weeks he walked and talked and appeared to people in his physical body - Thomas could place his finger in the nail hole on Jesus' hand. The thing that really muddies the water is when we think about who he is to me and to you.

One of the Christian organisations I was a part of had endless problems in their leadership. People lied to each other and for each other. Some were exceedingly manipulative and conniving. One was a secret alcoholic who kept his wine in a 2 litre lemonade bottle. Control junkies rose to the top and used fair means and foul to maintain their lead. Character assassination was the order of the day. People were ruthless and merciless to each other. You get the picture. Here's the thing though- it was a "Christ centred" organisation. It said so on their publicity material, their web page, their stationery - everything. It was their mantra.

I often wondered what was really wrong, what was at the heart of this Christian organisation that allowed so many people to become indifferent to Biblical values. It began to dawn on me that they were so certain of their rights as God's children and so assured of his forgiveness, no matter what, that they thought it didn't matter how they behaved. Like spoilt children who know that their parents are going to feed them and clothe them and care for them in spite of their worst misbehaviour they depended on God's promised forgiveness. God's hands were legally tied (in their reckoning). Salvation is assured.

They needed to get back to the cross and remember that as well as a symbol of our forgiveness in Christ, it is also a symbol of how much God hates sin and of what that cost him. Dealing with our sin was no walk in the park for Christ. When we leave the cross out of our thinking, we often fall into what some call "cheap grace" or "easy-believe-ism". Is that what Christ died for I wonder? That we would be so confident of our forgiveness and salvation that it would not matter how we lived. That we could lie, cheat, bully, neglect, indulge ourselves, etc. etc. Not in my Bible. The cross reminds us of our inability to save ourselves, our desperate need of his grace and forgiveness, of the horrible cost of sin and the limitless love of God. It humbles me to know that my sin nailed him there and caused his pain and death. It is not something to take for granted and exploit. It is something that brings us all down to the same level - sinners saved by grace alone.

Because of the cross, Jesus is not just another historical figure. He is my friend, but not just my friend. He is my brother, but not just my brother. He is my teacher, but not just my teacher. He is my saviour who was whipped and insulted and nailed to a cross for me. That has to affect how I live.

We have to be cross centred.

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