November 14, 2022
TODAY’S SCRIPTURE REFERENCE:
“Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world- the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, the pride of life- comes not from the Father but from the world.” (1 John 2.15-16)
I have to believe that our greatest human desire is “to be loved.” Saying that, I must say that our greatest spiritual desire is “to love one another.” The greatest accountability established by Jesus for all His disciples is “love one another by the measure with which you love yourself being willing to lay down your life for the sake of another before preserving your own.” Let us never forget the greatest “love” is that which is of God!
Why does God do anything? Because God is love.
Is that why we do anything? We may do it out of the sense of “love” as the world defines it. John declared the “love of the world” is more akin to lust. It is a consuming desire born out of the lack of authentic love. Does that mean that in those lives authentic love does not exist? The answer to that question is an absolute “no.” The love that said to the penitent thief on the cross “Today, you will be with Me in paradise” was the same love that was available to the unrepentant thief on the “other” cross. The difference is that it was rejected by that thief because his lust for his own life blamed God. He sought to have the final word of such declaration before all the world so that it would love him instead of the One who could save him from death.
Within the memory of the Church and often found in the theology declared by the Church, the cross which bore Jesus of Nazareth declared “King of the Jews” is identified as a cross of shame and indignity. It is called this because of the “mean” estate to which Jesus as the Christ was reduced. Quite literally and figuratively, Jesus was hung out “in all His glory.” He was literally and figuratively- transparent and nothing was hidden. Such indignity was the full effect intended by the Roman practice of crucifixion. Rome reveled in such torture, inhumanity and bawdiness. It was a reflection of their spirit to humiliate any and all who dare to stand against them. Of course, this is not what Jesus did in either the flesh or the spirit, as the son of man or the Son of God. What Jesus stood against was all unrighteousness and the indignity which man’s sin wrought on man in its desire to stand against God. While the righteous “Jews” dared not gaze upon the bared body of Jesus unless they brought the curse of indignity upon themselves, the unrighteous “Jews” had no such fear. They longed to see a humiliated foe who had stood against them because it showed that person was not righteous as their world defined it. A righteous person in their estimation would be clothed in finery to stand among their peers set apart from all that is unclean. Of course, what was revealed was that their clothing, their fine robes, were more like “cloaking devices” to hide the shame they bore and the shame they brought upon a nation of innocents. Even Pilate saw through their design and indiscretion. And, so too, did the Roman soldier who looked upon the man named Jesus who hung under the sign designating Him “King of the Jews” and declared, “Surely this man must be of God.”
It would seem to me that the only cross of shame on Golgotha’s hill that day was the cross which bore the unrepentant thief. His actions and his words might have as easily come from the enemies of Jesus as they did from his mouth and his heart and his spirit. His commentary was more an expose’ on the then current culture and climate than being mere wranglings from an embittered man whose lust for wealth, fame and notoriety in this world had finally run its due course. He continued to expel his shame as word vomit on those below. If the cross of Jesus had any literal elevation above the rest, which I doubt it did, then the words he cast toward Jesus fell to the ground below as an anointing of derision on those who sought their deaths. In his own way, he was holding the very leadership of Israel accountable for his lot as a criminal outcast. His thievery was a rebellion against their faithlessness, lawlessness and poverty of heart, mind, soul and spirit. Instead of professing his sin before God on this “death bed” confession, he sank even deeper into the valley of the shadow of death from which there was no escape. His words and actions were those of shame and guilt, pride and prejudice. Only death would silence it all in this world.
But, just beyond his fingertips and on the very tip of his tongue was the means of salvation. He, too, could have declared in his heart, “I am unworthy of living as that man named Jesus is unworthy of dying.” With a simple confession of his need for the love of God to accept his “death bed declaration and allow it to become a profession of faith that Jesus was the Christ, his sins would have been forgiven as well and he would have joined Jesus and the other in Paradise that day. The same opportunity existed for them all! It exists for us today as well. We all have a cross to bear. The question is which cross shall we choose to bear? Shall it be the one we have fitted for ourselves created by our lust for the world? Shall it be the one which Christ has fitted perfectly for us in His love for those in the world who no longer desire to be of the world but of the Kingdom of God?
What joy can there be in the lust of life when the peace that surpasses all understanding is born out of the love of God and for God as it is meant to be love for self and others to see the glory of God even in the midst of such shame as the world presents?
O God, love is Your aim and Your intention. We pray for that healing love to manifest itself in us so that as we truly love ourselves in Your sight we can truly love one another in the sight of the whole world! AMEN.