Laying Down Our Arms & Taking Up The Cross
A good friend – Rev. Kenneth Tanner – recently posted this quote on his Facebook page:
“[There] was the startling reinterpretation of the meaning of the cross that represented the greatest triumph (or compromise) of imperial Christianity. No longer a symbol of nonviolent sacrificial love, the cross was brazenly converted into a military standard. Armies marched to battle under the sign of the cross and ‘taking up the cross’ meant readiness to kill rather than to die.” —Stuart Murray
This is the sad and heart-breaking truth of our history as the Church. Historically it seems whenever a formerly oppressed group takes the reigns of power there is inevitably a moment when they perpetrate the actions that they previously had perpetrated against them. There are repeated instances where Jews were accused of attempting to harm or desecrate the Host, i.e. attempting to harm Jesus. Jews were killed en masse in response. In Sternberg in 1492 (the same year the Jews were expelled from Spain) some Jews were accused of stabbing and attempting to drown Hosts. Sixty-five Jews were arrested and tortured. Twenty-seven of them were executed by burning. This is one of thousands of examples. Europe’s Jewry has experience centuries of pogroms at the hands of Christians. Despite the fact that Jesus stayed Peter’s hand in the garden and healed the ear of the servant of the high priest that Peter had severed our impulse is still not first to take up our cross and but instead to take up the sword. How illogical a response to love of Christ that was most clearly expressed in submission to the will of His Father that resulted in his suffering, rejection, and death. We live in the light of an eternally victorious Christ who will never be defeated, yet he calls us to humility and servant hood. The apostles argued and debated about who was the greatest. Jesus responded specifically to this situation twice in the Gospel of St. Luke:
“Whoever receives this child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me. For he who is least among you all is the one who is great” (luke 9:48)
“The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves…I am among you as the one who serves” (Luke 22:25-27).
For roughly 2,000 years Christ’s followers have wrestled with what it means to participate in a Kingdom that turns all of our normal expectations about a kingdom and a king 180 degrees. How often have we witnessed the failure of leadership to model the servanthood of Christ because they were more interested in defending their own authority or dogma that may not actually have anything to do with the teachings of the humble rabbi who was also the Son of God? We need to stop drawing our swords in the name of Christ and leave that zealous Peter in the Garden – the one who slept through prayer and missed what God was doing that night in Gethsemane – and join Jesus at the Passover as he washed his disciples feet and join Jesus in taking up our cross to follow him to truly understand what it is to participate in the Kingdom of God.
“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23)