If you follow the news at all, you are aware of the terrible things being done in the Middle East, East Asia, and other places around the globe — all in the name of radical Islam. And yet, in spite of these hateful, evil, and inhumane events and beliefs, people seem to be turning to this frightening religion in record numbers — even those who will eventually be victimized by it themselves. Who can make any sense of this?
I regularly find myself wondering, “Why?” What is the attraction? Where is the hope? Where is the love? Where is the living Lord? They do not appear to be present in this radical religion of death.
Personally, however, I see all of these things in the cross of Christ. I hear it in the words of songs like “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” by Isaac Watts:
“Did e’er such love and sorrow meet? … Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all!”
Or in John Bowring’s “In the Cross of Christ I Glory”:
“When the woes of life o’ertake me, hopes deceive, and fears annoy, never shall the cross forsake me. Lo! It glows with peace and joy.”
Or in Elizabeth Clephane’s “Beneath the Cross of Jesus.” She wrote:
“Upon that cross of Jesus, mine eye at times can see the very dying form of One who suffered there for me.”
I saw it myself many years ago at Ground Zero in New York City, where a huge replica of a cross was raised out of the rubble and placed high so people could see. In that place of death, anger, frustration, and despair, the cross became a symbol of hope and stability. That is the power of the cross. It always has been and it always will be.
As you prepare for Easter through the end of this month, I hope you will stop long enough to really see the power the cross still has today in our world, to see its ability to conquer confusion, pain, suffering, and even death.
“So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross, till my trophies at last I lay down; I will cling to the old rugged cross, and exchange it some day for a crown.” — George Bennard
Early on in my pastoral ministry, I began to use a phrase that I probably repeated in some way every Sunday in worship. It is: “God loves you as though you were the only one in all the world to love — and that makes you a very special person.”
Although St. Augustine had a similar phrase, I think the apostle John crystallized the thought when he said, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son” (John 3:16). He was saying, “Jesus has come in person for you — as though there were only you!”
That is a truth your people should hear over and over again — and especially at this time of year! They are loved in a unique way by Almighty God. What a great message! If people, as little children, could only fully embrace that truth, the Christian walk would come so much easier for them. When they struggle with that truth, faith too often seems difficult.
So many influences in the world would like to discourage us by getting us to believe we are simply one in a billion. Don’t ever believe that, my friend. You are one that God loves as though you were the only one. God’s love for you is the greatest love story ever written. And it was written just for you.
‘‘And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him” (1 John 4:16).
Let me remind you of a very meaningful love note:
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”
I LOVE YOU! — God
My attempt here is not to be trite, but to remind you how genuinely loved you are. The passage from 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 is a love letter from God and a partial description of how He chooses to love you.
Genuine love validates your verbal expressions. It is one thing to tell someone how much you love them, but true love is revealed when those words are backed up with patience, kindness, and selfless support.
Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” That’s how valuable each of us is to God. That is the real power of the cross. Oh, how He loves you and me!
“The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness’” (Jeremiah 31:3).
Have a very happy Easter — because of the power of His cross!