Lesson 5: The Future in the Theology of the Cross

A Futuristic Cross by Isaac BerryOur modern technological society has a problem with the future. All it has to offer is more and better technology that supposedly will enable us to do whatever we desire. That usually is attached to having more wealth. The goal is prosperity and the assumption is once you have enough, you will begin to use it for the common good. At least, that is the popular program Bill Clinton articulated.

The present situation would seem to indicate if people do not have a moral or spiritual basis, they do not pursue a common good. The society as a whole resembles what takes place on the square in my hometown every Friday evening. Two groups gather to voice what they desire. Rather than conversing about how they might work together, they end up shouting at one another week after week.

I have been comparing this to Martin Luther’s understanding of a theology of glory. It claims God has already granted everything we need. Its adherents think because their position represents God’s Word, the rest of us must give up our ideas and accept their program.

A theology of the cross recognizes that we are engaged in an ongoing mission that continually changes as we work together in trying to follow God’s will. The Bible offers three visions of the future that guide this mission: the peaceable kingdom when weapons are destroyed and violence ended, the just society when people share so everyone has enough, and the beloved society when people care for one another.

This theology believes such a future is possible, because God promises to work with and through us. It claims the way to the glory of resurrection is through cross. There is still much to do before we get there. We must take up our own crosses in our own time and place if we are to follow Christ into the promised land.

It also maintains forgiveness leads to this future. This concept of forgiveness is not so much about excusing the past as opening up the future. It is a dynamism that prevents my past from preventing my movement into a creative future.

The very beloved I Corinthians 13:1-3 makes this point when it maintains love is the only essential. Because it is so familiar, we often miss the enormity of the statement. Paul was speaking to groups who were also at a standoff with each claiming their position was the only true Christian way. The Apostle says you could give your life in martyrdom, give away every one of your possessions, know absolutely everything there is to know, and have enough faith to actually move a mountain; however, you would still nee love. And Paul defines love as compassion which is to be willing to suffer for another. The way to the future involves suffering today.

Dr. Martin Luther King expressed this well when he described Christian love as absorbing the hatred of others in order to change their hearts. His followers in the civil rights movement were taught that enjoying the beloved community in the future meant suffering today.

The face off on the Gettysburg square last Friday demonstrated what he meant. A respected, retired high school principal was thrown to the ground and injured when he tried to prevent violence. Some refused to have any empathy, saying he would not have been hurt if he had not been there. Others, like me, believe one of the roles Christians play in our day is to put themselves in harm’s way in order to save others.

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