Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Backbone or bludgeon?

Today I read a blog post from a blogger whose posts I sometimes read. She talked about how love is meaningless without the Cross - and how the Cross defined love. She talked about how the religious use the Cross as a sledgehammer ... and how it was intended to be used as a lifeline by people who have been rescued, to extend to others who are in peril. 

She talked about the news topic that folks talk about in hushed tones because they don't know what to do about it - and because they're scared to talk about it just in case it happens to them - martyrdom - and more specifically the execution of 21 Coptic Christians from Egypt, killed by ISIS. (You can read her blog post at this link: A Holy Experience.) 

In our "safe" experience in North America, events such as the martyrdom of believers - which takes place on a daily basis - seem far removed from us. Yet we are not as safe as we think. In our complacency, we are in grave danger of letting the Cross become a pretty decoration rather than a symbol of ultimate, self-sacrificing love. We are in danger as our own political forces seek to chip away more and more at those activities that we have considered for so long to be inalienable rights - the right to gather in protest for any reason, for example. (Yes, that stops the unpleasant demonstrations that make us squirm because we don't agree with the subject matter ... but it also stops us from standing up for what we believe to be right). 

Why were those 21 people killed by ISIS? Why are believers killed every day by those of other beliefs?

Because power corrupts. Because they can. Because those who kill them see them - and any other representative of an idea that is different from theirs - as dangerous. In other areas of the world, corrupt powerful people fear losing power over others. They rule by fear. And the people of the Cross are fearless. Perfect love casts out all fear. So their murderers fear that love most of all.

The Cross - in Western culture - has developed the sad reputation of being a bludgeon (a weapon used to beat someone to death) wielded by powerful religious people. Religious purists use their "faith" as a way to judge, condemn, and yes, execute others - assassinate their character, demoralize them, keep them under the strong thumb of "Should." "Christian" religious purists (and I use the term "Christian" in quotations because they bear no resemblance to Christ) use the Cross as a banner under which to mount offensives against this individual or that individual, this group or that group, this political persuasion or that one. They lift high the Cross only to bring it down like a club on the heads of those who would dare disagree.  All the while they hide their hypocrisy behind the shadow of the Cross even as they perpetuate abuse and oppression, leaving ruined lives and testimonies in their wake. All the while they poison - from within - the credibility of the Message while raging against those who disagree. They - as I said - use the Cross as a bludgeon.

But the Cross is not a bludgeon. The Cross of Jesus only killed ONE Person, and by that one death by LOVE it sets people free. It gives those who have been so set free ... backbone. We are people of God's love, the love of the Cross. 

This love was (and is still) so strong that the original carriers of the Gospel Message spoke nothing against the political powers of their day, carried no placards, protested nothing at all - yet in passionate gratitude for His scandalous grace, they changed the world because the Cross gave them love with backbone. They were infused with and conveyed to others the message of God's love expressed through the Cross of Jesus, Love proven true and effective by the Resurrection. They had witnessed His grace, tasted His love. 

You can't kill that with violence. There is no way to stop God's love from infusing people with backbone, not to be bullies themselves but to be fiercely kind and generous. That kind of love spreads the more you try to destroy it, just like swinging a skipping rope at a dandelion head. As my blogger friend alluded to, if you behead a dandelion in full seed, it might seem like it goes away. 

But you really only get one thing in the end. 

More dandelions.

Photo "Dandelion" courtesy of
tiramisustudio at

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