Over and over again three little words hit me, scattered as they were throughout the prose of the communion message. ‘The beloved cross’… ‘the beloved cross’. Initially the phrase jarred against me. Was it really right to say the cross was beloved? Should such a description not instead be assigned to the bearer of the cross?
For the speaker of our communion message this past Sunday the phrase was obviously a common one, rolling off the tongue as naturally as ‘and’ and ‘the’. I got the distinct impression it was a part of his regular vernacular, spoken as easily and consistently as you often hear ‘Lord’ or ‘Jesus’ in a prayer. And you might ask why not? What’s wrong the term? Is the cross not considered a sign of love and grace? Is it not a symbol of all our Beloved Saviour did for us?
That’s the thing. The more I thought about it the more I realised there was such a beautiful truth behind this phrase. What had originally jarred now reached out in warmth to rest me in God’s grace. Let me take you back in time a moment to lead you to my revelation.
Have you ever considered what the cross represented before Christ’s amazing redemptive act? It’s a gruesome tale. This ‘beloved cross’ was actually an instrument of torture, a symbol of death in one of the most painful and cruel manners of the day. To be given this type of death sentence was to say you we’re deserving of not only death but of lingering pain and torment on the journey to that death. People more learned than I can better explain what it does to your body, and I have no desire to list such graphic information in this reflection. Suffice to say it was not a quick or painless death.
Given this, the cross would never have been hung in a home or worn as an adornment. It’s image would have sparked thoughts of fear or judgement; expressions of glee at another’s pain, or grief at the lose of a loved one. It represented hatred, control and judgement. I can’t imagine there being a jeweller in all of the Roman world who would have thought it a wise investment to sell ‘cross’ pendants.
One amazing act from God changed that. The image of pain became the image of gain. The token of grief are now replaced with the token of belief. A representation of hate transformed to a representation of love. An emblem of control transformed to an emblem of sacrifice. An image of judgement transformed to an image of grace. And we find ourselves in a world where the cross is proudly worn around our necks, hung in our homes and gracing the walls of our churches. No longer looked on with pain or torment, fear or terror, it has become the ‘beloved cross’.
How like God. To take the most destitute, despicable, egregious image and not just rescue it but spin the entire thing on it’s head and let it shine for a purpose diametrically opposed to it’s history. To have it become the ‘beloved cross’. To redeem it. And you know what? It’s exactly what He offers each of us. To not only rescue us and the destitute, despicable, egregious things in our lives but to redeem them. To have them shine brightly for His purpose and glory. For them to become ‘beloved’ in our lives.
Now that seems utterly impossible in the natural and you could even think me insensitive to suggest it. For how could you pain and torment ever be a ‘beloved’ thing in your life. The thing is I’ve seen God do it time and time again. The despicable pain of abuse is not only healed but turned into grace as a life now shares hope with others. The woman whose daughter is killed by a drunk driver finds not only the ability to forgive and move on but to love the man guilty of the act and welcome him into her home and life. The man born with no arms or legs is able to not only survive but in fact thrive in life and use it to inspire other’s to hope and ultimately seek God. In each instance the object of torment becomes the ‘beloved’.
I believe too often we stop halfway through the journey of the cross. We experience God’s love and grace but fail to take a hold of His transformative power for the dark recesses of our lives. Isaiah declared that One would come who would set the captives free (Is 61) and Luke showed this to be Jesus (Luke 4). Don’t only accept His grace, lay a hold of his transformation for your life. He’s waiting for you.