John 3:13-17 Lift High The Cross
Jesus said, “Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.” For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.
A criticism often levied against Christians is that we are far too often focused on something far too far away. Our desire for Heaven is often viewed as a rejection of earth. This criticism is not without any merit. How often have I found myself explaining my life by saying, “I’ve rejected this world for Christ” or “I’ve rejected the things of this world to follow Christ”?
Now, I know what I mean, but I also know what this sounds like.
We, as Christians, have to be careful. Christ did not come into the world to reject the world. Nor did He come into the world to condemn the world. Rather, He came into the world to love the world.
So what should I say when it comes to this world? I think the old saying: “When in Rome, do as the Romans do”, may be well adapted for Christians in the following way: “As a Christian, do as Christ would do.” Let us be imitators of Christ.
The Lord did not come into the world to reject the world, and neither should I. He did not come into the world to reject the sinner, and neither should I. Instead, the Lord came into the world to confront sin and embrace it. Yes, embrace it! Suffocate it! Intoxicate it! And nail Himself to it! And yes...so should I.
Embrace it. The Lord accepted His Cross and wrapped His arms around it. The Cross is not just a symbol of the reality of sin; it is, more importantly, a symbol of the reality of the sinner. It is a symbol of each and every one of us. What the Lord does to the Cross is what He does to us: He will not turn His back on us; He will not abandon us; He will not reject us. Instead, He will take us upon His shoulders and carry us, all the way, till His death. Sin will no longer give birth to further tragedy; it will give birth to an everlasting Savior!
We do not reject this world; we change it. We do not reject the sinner; we embrace him.
Yesterday, I was dying. My back was killing me! Nothing would dull the pain. I wanted to go see my chiropractor but I didn’t know when I would be able to see him. He called me right between two appointments (Thank you Lord!) and so I rushed there to get my back fixed. It worked. Pain relieved. Problem solved.
As I was heading out of the building, I found myself in the elevator alone with a college student. I cracked a little joke about the elevator “going down to hell”. She laughed a little, but more out of politeness. Then, out of the blue, she asked me if I was a minister (I was wearing my uniform). I nodded. She asked me what kind of minister I was. I told her I was a Roman Catholic priest. She asked me if I always had to wear my uniform. I told her, “Yes, almost always.” She asked me why? I thought about it and told her, “You never know when you will be needed…when someone is looking for a priest.” She thought long and hard at what I said. I broke the silence by asking her what religion she was. “Methodist”, she said, “But I stopped going to Church a long time ago”. She surprised me when she told me she had a very strong desire to go to Confession. I told her, “I’m ready when you are!” She couldn’t believe it. She was happy, but was not ready to go. However, she did tell me that she had just gotten out of therapy and that she would love to go to Confession one day. I gave the address to St. Monica and encouraged her to come to Church. I hope she does.
Somehow the Cross has become a symbol just of Christ. It shouldn’t be. It should be the symbol of a relationship between Christ and the sinner; the good times and the bad; of sickness and health; of sinner and Savior. Christ and the Cross is a reminder that He is united to us...for life. We need him back on the Cross, not to crucify Him, but to embrace us.
As I got into my car, I was reminded of just how important it is for us to wear our faith on our sleeves, regardless of how hot it is! You just never know when you need to let others know who you are.
Let us all lift high the Cross, in one way or another. Not to show off, but as a sign to let others know the love of our life! In this way, we will do what Christ did: bring heaven down to earth.