After one Sunday service, we gathered outside to dedicate the church’s new backlit cross in memory of a member of our church who went home to be with the Lord the previous winter. As I stood at the foot of the cross, appreciating the finished work of the hands that had put so much effort into designing and constructing it, I found a greater appreciation for the “finished work” of the original cross, the cross of Christ.
The cross stands as a powerful reminder of the core of our faith; it is the lynchpin of everything that defines us as Christians, and of who we are in Jesus Christ. I am reminded, every time that I look at the cross, that it is also a symbol of the two greatest commandments as Jesus instructed in Matthew 22:37-40:
Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the other commandments and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”
Our highest mandates are to love God and to love others, to continually live a life where our vertical relationship and our horizontal relationships intersect with each other. As Jesus articulated, everything else we are to do, or not to do, are wrapped up in the simplicity of these two commandments. Imagine how radically different our world would be if people truly endeavored to live their lives motivated entirely by such love.
Jesus never asked us to do something that He’s not willing or prepared to equip us to do. Throughout His life, and especially in His death, He not only put loving and obeying God and ministering to the needs of others above His own self-interest, He made them His own self-interest. The cross is where He showed the full extent of His purpose and passion.
Two thousand years later, the cross remains central to the message of the Gospel. Scripture admonishes us to be careful not to drift away from the centrality of the cross; instead, as the Apostle Paul wrote,
As for me, God forbid that I should boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of that cross, my interest in this world died long ago, and the world’s interest in me is also long dead. It doesn’t make any difference now whether we have been circumcised or not. What counts is whether we really have been changed into new and different people. May God’s mercy and peace be upon all those who live by this principle. They are the new people of God. – Galatians 6:14-16
While it is important to balance our appreciation for the work done on the cross with the joyful hope given us in the resurrection, we must never lose sight of the greater meaning expressed in the cross. Let it be a daily reminder of how much God loves you, as well as how much He loves the rest of the world, and let us live accordingly.