“You are love on display for all to see.” – Forever Reign, Hillsong Worship
A few weeks ago at work, a coworker of mine noticed the crucifix I wear around my neck from time to time. The evening was winding down, and the flow of patients had decreased, so we had a few moments to chat. She began to ask me questions about it. Where did I get it, who gave it to me, and why is Jesus still on the cross? The first two I’ve heard and answered before, but that last one surprised me. I paused for a moment and looked down at my crucifix. She went on to say He’s not supposed to be on the cross because He’s already risen. She was not being mean or condescending, simply stating what she knew. And she was right. Jesus is risen. He is alive. So, I said to her, “Yes, He is, but I wear the crucifix because I need to remind myself of that sacrifice and what it meant.” We often reflect on the symbol of the cross, the wood of the cross, as we should. But what of the body? Do we think about the man nailed to the wood? The innocent beaten and slayed like a lamb? We should. Mark Hart says it best: it is easy to forget what all went into that cross, that crucifix. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JBr82YfbcE0)
When Mel Gibson came out with the Passion of the Christ movie in 2004, I went to see it with my family, and like most people, cried from beginning to end. To this day, I cannot watch the movie without crying or looking away at points. Not because of its graphic nature, but because my heart tightens in my chest at the visual reminder of what my salvation cost. Tightens to the point that I have to look away, as if to protect myself from that pain. Sometimes when I gaze at a crucifix, I have to force myself to look at that visual reminder, even when my heart hurts for my friend.
But looking at the crucifix is so much more than a graphic visual of death! A majority of the time when I look at a crucifix, two things fill my heart: love and joy.
Joy fills my heart not because He is dead, but because I know He resurrected and freed me and all of humanity from eternal damnation. I know the ransom has been paid. I know that the war is already won. I know that death has lost its sting. Therein lies my Christian joy.
Love fills my heart because how can it not? Hillsong United put it beautifully in their song Like an Avalanche: “King for a slave, trade in Your righteousness for shame, despite all my pride and foolish ways, caught in your infinite embrace. And I find myself here on my knees again caught up in grace like an avalanche. Nothing compares to this love burning in my heart.” Regardless of my faults, weaknesses, and many rejections, God looked at me and said, “For you, I will give my life. Garcia, I love you so much that I’d rather die than spend eternity without you.” And who am I? Who am I that the God of the universe should love me so perfectly? So, when I reflect on this, I can only fall to my knees, let Him embrace me in love, and adore His beautiful body on that cross. I worship and glorify Him because it is all I can do when I look at the crucifix.
So I wear my crucifix to remind me of this love. To remind me that in His eyes, I am worth that sacrifice. To remind me what true love and selfless love look like. To remind me that I am called to love my brothers and sisters in the same way. I know the world says take care of you first, then worry about everyone else. And to an extent that is true; for if we are not well, we cannot care for others. But God calls each and every one of us to a love so radical, it hurts. He calls us to lay down our lives in service, just as He did. It may seem peculiar to reflect on the passion so soon after Christmas and on the dawn of a new year, but isn’t it the perfect time to do so? When we look to the coming year, we think, how can I improve? How can I do better? What can I change? Well, as Christians our call is to love. That’s it. To love. Love in service. Love in humility. Love until it hurts. So while coming up with our lists of resolutions and as we reflect, let’s ask ourselves “how can I love more, how can I love better, and how can I love more humbly?”
To be sure, it will not be easy. We’ll want to complain that it’s unfair of us to give so much of ourselves. Whenever I have that thought, I look down at the crucifix or the cross hanging around my neck, and I am reminded that it is unfair, but He did it. He gave it all. No part of him was left. He did it. For me. For you. For everyone. I am not God, so I will falter, and I will fall, and I will want to quit, and I will quit more times than I care to think about, but at the end of the day, I will get up. I will pick up my cross, and once more I will to live to love and serve my brothers and sisters. And when I am weak, I will call on Him who strengthens me. This is my resolution for 2015. To love. To love myself. To love my neighbors. To love my enemies. What’s yours?