Friday, June 17, 2005

Perspective Gives Meaning

On a typical day, President Clinton spoke at a Press Conference at the White House and at its conclusion, hugged one of his interns. As usual, photographers were on hand to take pictures that fateful day. Most of the photographers had begun to use digitized cameras, however one had not. Whether he was reluctant to give up using film, or just unfamiliar with digitalized cameras, we don't know. All we do know is that on that day, he shot photos with film. Most of the photographers deleted the picture of President Clinton hugging the intern, because their digital cameras did not have sufficient storage space to save all of the digital pictures they had taken. The photographer who shot the photos in film, saved his negatives in a file cabinet. A short time later, President Clinton's scandalous affair with intern Monica Lewinski broke. The photographer who had shot in film was sure he had seen her before. Hiring a professional, they searched his archives, located the negative and developed it into the now famous picture of Clinton hugging Monica Lewinski. Initially, the negative was just part of a collection of shots taken that day; but what gave it meaning, is perspective. The photo became relevant through the perspective of the affair.

As the saying goes, "perspective is everything." As we view this lesson on the cross some ask, "is the cross still relevant today and if so why? Have I missed its true meaning?" The cross becomes relevant through the perspective of the love affair Christ has with us. To some of us the idea of God having a love affair with us is scandalous. But that is because we have humanity's understanding of love. The right perspective of the cross is a holy and loving spiritual perspective. And for this understanding, we need the enlightening of the Holy Spirit, for "Spiritual things are spiritually discerned" (1 Corinthians 2:13-15). This is why Jesus promised His disciples to send the Comforter / Holy Spirit (John 14:16, 26). For it is He who would give them the understanding they needed, to unravel what truly happened at the Cross. Contrast the disciples' attitudes of unbelief and desire for the supremacy in the Gospels, with their ruling attitudes and desires after their reception of the early Pentecostal rain; what a transformed group of men they were. Before Pentecost they were hiding, fearful of being found, arrested and executed. After the Holy Spirit took over, they were no longer afraid and instead were found boldly preaching the Gospel (Acts 2) of God's self-denying love demonstrated at the cross.

What is it about the cross that could have made these men ready for the reception of the Holy Spirit? To the Jews who believed the message that they were made right with God through Christ's loving sacrifice on the cross, it was liberating. They found victory in it. On the contrary, to the unbelieving Jews, the cross was shameful and scandalous, a stone of stumbling -- an offence. To them, it represented God's total abandonment of the man who hung there; it was in effect his sentence to hell
(Deuteronomy 21:23). And the fact that Pilate linked it to their nation (through his proclamation of Jesus as the 'King of the Jews') made them abhor it and Jesus all the more. Jesus chose this painful public sentence to deliver you and me. He willingly
died on the cross accursed of God, "For He hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him" (2 Corinthians 5:21).

With out the perspective of the Holy Spirit, we are at a loss to understand or explain the cross. For many of us, only those things that we can perceive through our senses, have meaning and relevance. Unfortunately because of sin, we have limited perspective; perceiving inadequately, we find many things inexplicable, and therefore choose not to believe they exist. As a result, things that defy an explanation may be categorized by us as simple anomalies or as mere tricks of the mind. Yet, "faith is the substance of things unseen, the essence of things hoped for" (Hebrews 11:1). Human sight -- in essence, cannot perceive that which faith hopes for and believes in. Faith can only be obtained moment by moment as we yield our will to the Holy Spirit, and walk with Christ. If we, like the Pharisees and others, refuse to surrender to the conviction that the Holy Spirit is giving us, we will not have Faith to see the unseen and hope for that which is to come. The Pharisees, Sadducees and others, saw Jesus as a Sabbath Breaking, blasphemous, lunatic. After the cross, those who received the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, saw Him as the Lamb of God, slain to take away the Sin of the World (John 1:29).

At present, the cross still causes confusion. Those who reject the Holy Spirit misconstrue it. Some see the cross as a lucky charm or magical amulet -- so that when you put it on, you are actually putting on Jesus. Others see it just as a piece of decorative jewelry. Still others put it in the midst of burning candles on an altar of sorts, then kiss and pray to it as if it were a divine being. Thank God that by His grace, we can see it for what it truly is -- the place where God poured out His magnificent self-sacrificing love upon us. Its the place where we died with Christ (Romans 6:8), and the place where He paid the wages of Sin -- by dying the second death (Romans 6:23). Brothers and sisters, we who believe are not scornful of the cross, and neither do we find it decorative or magical. Instead, we see Jesus, and we thank God for Him, who through the cross, has made our salvation possible. It is He who gives our lives meaning. There are many choices we will be called upon to make today, whatever they may be or have been, let's choose the perspective of the Holy Spirit and delight in the cross -- shall we?

Raúl Díaz & Maria Greaves-Barnes

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