June 27, 2013

Level ground at the Cross

Yesterday, my sister drove from where they are staying into Calgary, twice driving past High River. She could hardly look. The northeast part of the city is still under water, with only the tops of the trees visible. There is no place for that water to go. If pumped out, it will just flow into the basements in other parts of the town.

A few days earlier, a facebook video shows people stranded on the roof of a downtown business. There were men, women, people in business suits and in coveralls. The video showed everyone climbing into the muddy bucket of a front-end loader and riding to safety. This disaster and the rescue efforts level all distinctions.

Today’s devotional links that with the Cross. When Jesus died there, He also leveled all distinctions. The Cross, like that flood and rescue effort, disregards our human-raised barriers of nationality, gender and occupation. The Cross considers neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, but makes all one in Christ. The wildest savage can come to the cross pleading for mercy, as can the proudest Jew who is a child of Abraham.

I understand how the Cross obliterated national distinctions and social barriers of worth and created angst in Jewish hearts. They were set apart, a chosen nation. The covenants and promises of God came to them. The knowledge of the one true God was theirs. It seems logical that pride would arise in their minds, but along with it came contempt for all other nations. They envied none for the others were mere Gentiles.

For a Jew to turn to Christ would be a further insult to those who rejected Him. No wonder these early Christians were persecuted. By embracing the Cross, they were heaping a grave insult on their national pride. Therefore, when some came and told these believers that they must keep the Law and be circumcised, hold on to at least something of their old religious ways, they were tempted.

Paul told them they had it wrong. The Cross was supposed to be offensive, not watered down by mixing in the rules that they had left behind. They were supposed to feel insulted and defenseless because the Cross did level distinctions. To turn back to rites and rituals was terribly wrong.

But if I, brothers, still preach circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been removed. (Galatians 5:11)

This leveling of differences does not mean that God disregards our personal distinctions. Those who come to Christ do not get the same treatment. He is strikingly original in the way He deals with each person who believes in Him. He has an individual understanding of our hearts and specific needs, skills and abilities. Yet in spite of all that, there is a “scandal” in the Cross because every distinction is also obliterated.

That flooding river put everyone in the same situation, and while God is caring for each one in different ways, they are all victims of the same disaster. The Cross puts everyone in the same situation too. While God cares for each one in different ways, we are all guilty of sin. The Cross declares that everyone is either saved as a lost sinner or not saved at all. The brightest heart needs pardon and peace with God as much as the wildest sinner; there are no distinctions at His feet. There are also no distinctions in His offer.
The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price. (Revelation 22:17)
Jesus freely bids everyone to come to His Cross. Just as “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God,” so also does He declare that “whosoever will may come” and participate freely in the water of life, for “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 3:23; 10:13) 

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