Abba Poemen said ‘There is no greater love than that a man lays down his life for his neighbour. When you hear someone complaining and you struggle with yourself and do not answer him back with complaints; when you are hurt and bear it patiently, not looking for revenge; then you are laying down your life for your neighbour.’
The Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ is a wonderful thing for the simple reason that it turns the world around. In the Cross we see the values of the world turned on their head. What looks like a shameful defeat and a failure, to be executed like a common criminal, naked, vulnerable, mocked, abused, and tortured, is the true victory.
It is a victory which the powers of this world cannot understand. To many people it still seems strange, that we as Christians should celebrate torture and failure; and yet we do, because we know that the Cross is not the end, that it leads to the new life of Easter. It is a cross which brings both peace and mercy. It demonstrates them in the clearest possible terms: ‘Father forgive them, for they know not what they do’ ‘Today you shall be with me in paradise’. This is what the love of God looks and feels like. It gives us the true gifts of God’s peace and God’s mercy. They cannot be bought with money, or power, or privilege, or status, with fine clothes, or fine words, or indeed anything of this world. They cannot be bought at all; they are pure gift, freely given, and of no worth in the eyes of the world but of infinite value.
So then, we have a choice. What will you choose? Christ, or the ways of the world? Whom will you serve? We can have a comfortable life; we can fill our barns full and build bigger ones, or we can be crucified with Christ. It may not appear quite as tempting an offer. People prefer the easy life, and the devil can tempt you to go after the ways of the world. Many do, but ultimately what they go after is vain, empty, without substance. Instead, we follow our Lord’s footsteps which will lead to the Cross in any number of different ways. But we are to do this gladly, to embrace it, and live it out joyfully. This is why our Lord summarises his teaching with advice ‘But seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.’ What Christ offers is TRUE life, TRUE abundance, not material satisfaction, or the absence of pain. So then let us choose to serve him who gave his life for us. Let us live out our faith in our lives. So that everything that we say, or think, or do, every last thing, will proclaim to the world the truth of Christ’s victory and his love. It’s up to us, you see, to keep proclaiming the Gospel in thought, and word, and deed, so that the world may believe and give glory to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, to whom be ascribed as is most right and just, all might, majesty, glory dominion, and power, now and forever.