Today is the day when the cheap grace of triumphalism is shown to be a fraud. Today is the day when those who use the gospel to fulfill their selfish ambition are unmasked. Today is the day when the voices of those who co-opt the gospel to judge and condemn are silenced. Today is the day that shatters every ideology, every program, every dogmatic system. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” This is the question that silences all of our attempts to give an answer.

Today, God’s love for this world breaks forth from the depths of suffering. In the broken man, dying on the cross, God demonstrates God’s love for the sick and diseased, for the lonely and depressed, for the outcast, the lost, and those who have forgotten who they are. In the broken man, dying on the cross, God shatters injustice and oppression, jamming a rod into the spokes of every structure and system—all of our attempts to makes something of ourselves. In the broken man, dying on the cross, God saves us from the power of sin and death, bringing freedom, liberation, and salvation.

The life and witness of saint Oscar Romero, who was martyred forty years ago, is a sign of God’s scandalous love for this world. Romero writes this:

In all of history no one has ever encountered a love that was so…crazy, so exaggerated: giving to the point of being crucified on a cross. There is no friend who has given his life for another friend with such an outpouring of suffering and love as Christ our Lord…That is why Christ tells us that the sign of the Christian is living the new commandment he gives us. It is a commandment that tonight becomes fresh in our memory and our lives: “As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.” (John 13:34)

Father, forgive them, they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). Let us reflect, sisters and brothers, on this personified gesture of love. And when we are tempted to act with vengeance, resentment, cruelty, or selfishness, let us not consider the sad example of people who hate one another. Rather let us raise our eyes toward the love that becomes the lamb, that becomes food, that becomes Passover, that becomes covenant…

In the midst of pandemic, of death and suffering, fear and anxiety, may the cross remind us of God’s scandalous love for this world. The cross shows us that God’s sovereign power is not found in resignation or empty gestures of confidence; it is made known in the solidarity of love—the presence of God in the depths of suffering and despair. As Romero reminds us, we are now called to take up our cross, so our lives might become signs of God’s love for this world.

Jason Lief

Dr. Jason Lief teaches courses in Christian education and youth ministry. A Northwestern College graduate, he served as the chaplain for Pella (Iowa) Christian High School while earning a master’s degree in theology from Wheaton College Graduate School. He also completed a doctorate in practical theology from Luther Seminary. He previously taught theology and youth ministry at Dordt College for 10 years. Dr. Lief is the author of “Poetic Youth Ministry: Loving Young People by Learning to Let Them Go” and "Christianity and Heavy Metal as Impure Sacred Within the Secular West: Transgressing the Sacred.”

5 Comments

  • Helen P says:

    Stunningly written. I needed to hear this message today. Thank you.

  • Dale Cooper says:

    Thanks, Jason, for beckoning me to return again–and yet again–to our Savior dying on a Cross, there to behold his “wondrous love.” Your words summon me to remember that “Love so amazing, so divine–demands my soul, my life, my all.”

  • John Kleinheksel says:

    Thank you Jason. It (like now) was the worst of times and the best of times.
    Love. The first word. The last word. Embodied. Through Him. Now, through us. Amen.

  • Pam Adams says:

    Jason, Thank you for reminding us of our Lord’s scandalous love. We need this reminder in a world torn apart by a virus. If it was not for our Savior we would have nothing to hold on to.

  • Philip Doeschot says:

    Thank you Jason,

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