The cross changes what?

A certain UK pastor was slammed a few years back for claiming that if one explained the cross to an ordinary run of the mill person as ‘God punished his Son so that he might not punish you (if you believe)’ the response would be that one has just described ‘cosmic child abuse’. There are nuances on the above presentation but something akin to that is standard for many evangelicals. Sin, guilt, justice, wrath, hell one side of the equation… Jesus in the middle being punished in our place… we can cross over.

What does the cross change? It certainly does not change God, it does not move God from wrathful to forgiving. In simple terms God does not need the cross in order to forgive us. ‘God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself’, Paul wrote. The cross does change us, but not in the simple way of being an example that we ‘see’ and then are moved by that love – the so-named moral-influence theory. It does that but that is not to touch the core. It certainly changes our subservience to the powers, the devil, sin as a power and death. Outpoured love sucks up all that is wrong, all rebellion, all domination. The cross – expressed as ‘Christus Victor’ – seems to centre there; but not one power proving to be bigger than the other (God is bigger than Satan) but as love conquers all.

God is love. Love is not simply an attribute of God but God is love. True love, love that gives, that flows for the other. The Trinity is love, a flow of love for the other; hence a hierarchical approach to the Trinity does not work. Love is eternal… Genesis 3 might be myth, but so deeply true – sin is not eternal (and even if we posit a pre-Satanic fall we still come to the same conclusion that sin is not eternal). It has a beginning and an end, sin is temporal. Although ‘battle’ as we understand is focused on ‘power and strength’ the key to overcoming in any situation is not to give up. Love does not ‘give up’, love is eternal, and the powers whether they be personal (Satan and demons) or personified (sin and death) are exhausted, nullified in the face of the cross.

The cross is the expression of the eternal nature of God within creation. That which had no beginning is expressed with a beginning – the Word became flesh; that through which (whom) all creation came became part of the creation. God becomes human. The cross is not a temporary fall of God from the place of power, but the temporal manifestation of the eternal God of love – hence ‘slain before the foundation of the world’.

The cross changes creation. The temporary sickness / poison within creation is drawn out to that event in Jerusalem some 2000 years ago. The after-results are still taking place. Maybe we see those after-results clearly when someone finds faith, but so much more than ‘Jesus died for me on the cross’ occurred at the cross. Every healing is a sign, every deliverance a pointer… and as we move beyond a greater Power over power to the presence of love, one wonders what can happen. I am all for confrontation and have enough bruises to illustrate that approach… but if I (and a few others (ekklesia)) could align with the eternal nature of the cross the inevitable response would be a manifestation of resurrection.

There is a before and an after with the cross. Forgiveness of sins is part of the before (after all God even covered the sins of the first murderer, not demanding justice or compliance to ‘the law’) in the sense of forgiveness for what someone had done that was wrong. There is an after to the cross… an empty tomb, death conquered.

The cross changed creation. By faith I was told one received the forgiveness of sins… maybe by faith I need to see the boundless possibilities of the cross, possibilities that one day will be a reality. I see a new heaven and a new earth.