October 4, 2017

Why the Cross?
The Cross and Love that Suffers

Hebrews 12:1-3 (NASB)

“…Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

The cross is the visual identity for Christianity. The Latin word “crux” means “central” – as in “that is the crux of the argument.” It is the root word of crucifix. The cross is the crux of Christianity. “I desire to know nothing except Christ and Him crucified” (I Corinthians 2:2). Why is it important to “know nothing” but the cross? At least one reason is that when you consider the cross, you “will not grow weary” in love.

When I focus on the cross I see Christ’s love, and I am called to love people the way Christ loves me.

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:34)

There was joy before Him
The preposition "for" in "for the joy" is often rendered "in the stead of" (Matthew 2:22). Christ had the joy of glory, but in the stead of it, took upon Himself flesh, for our sake. Love is selfless.

There was shame around Him
In the midst of His endurance, He was naked, beaten, spat upon, cursed and crowned with thorns. He could have called ten thousand angels, but He abided under it! Shame is not as important as love.

There was rest beneath Him
He sat down. In the end, when you lie down at last, love will be all that matters in life.

If you have agape love you don't need much else, but if you don't have it, not much else matters. Paul defines love by describing love. He shows us what love is by what love does (I Corinthians 13:4-6).

In verse seven we have a tetralogy: four summary phrases that help us understand what love is.

“Love bears all things.”
“Love believes all things.”
“Love hopes all things.”
"Love endures all things."

We are living in a culture that has lost any sense of real endurance. Our relationships often reflect our sense of entitlement and comfort. We exit easily and quickly.

The cross teaches us what it means to “sweat blood” – to work on selfless, agape love by enduring! What it looks like to love someone the way Jesus loved you on the cross.

  1. When you endure you abide and do not personally abandon.

    This word "endure" is the Greek word hupomeno and occurs seventeen times in the New Testament. It is a compound word: hupounder and menoabide. It literally means to abide under a burden.

    "You will be hated by all men for My names sake, but he who abides shall be saved." (Matthew 10:22)

    Jesus is saying that a genuine Christian will never renounce Christ out of fear of persecution. In like manner, loving a person means you don't abandon him but you abide in relationship.

  2. When you endure you support and feel no need to shame.

    You don't "endure" when things are going well; you enjoy. Endurance speaks of a burden. "Hupo" speaks of being under a burden with a willingness to bear it, to lift it, to support it. Some of the greatest examples of agape love I have ever seen have been within this church.

    There are some occasions when the best thing a person can do for another is to separate, but the separation is not for retribution or punishment, but for encouragement and correction.

    It is impossible to shame a loved one with words when you are helping carry the burden.

  3. When you endure you give and don't always get in return.

    This is why genuine agape love is purely selfless. It is the anti-thesis of Hollywood's love. It is the epitome of divine love. You may ask yourself the question, "How much do I give?"

    That question can only come after you begin to sweat drops of blood while you are giving. "Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for itEphesians 5:25.

    In Kenya, they tell the story about a young Kikuyu boy who walked many miles from the beach of Mombasa to his village in the bush country carrying a beautiful shell to give to his English teacher. The teacher gratefully said, "You shouldn't have gone so far to find this beautiful shell for me." The boy smiled and replied "Long walk was part of the gift."

    How should we like it were the stars to burn, with a passion for us we could not return?
    If equal affection cannot be, let the more loving one be me.

    If I think this only brings pain, I’ve yet to learn loves true gain;
    For when I can give without any pull, it’s a sign my heart is already full.

    This is the reason I bow my knee and ask to know God’s love for me.
    If your affection ever turns cold, my love for you will never grow old.

                                                               W. Wade Burleson