The top left of the letter head for the congregation Good Shepherd, Tulsa, used a series of colored shapes that looked like irregular shaped confetti. Yet the artist put the irregularly colored shapes together to form the shape of a cross. The colored shapes represent humanity, called to faith by the gospel, around the cross of the Savior Jesus Christ. Thus the many were made one in Christ, whose cross bridges the cultures, races, genders, languages, and all human barriers. Christ Jesus by His work of redemption, brings all humanity together to form its cruciform shape, equally sharing the faith and hope of their salvation. Peace between God and man has been restored. They are friends, yet discord persists.
Tensions and strife abound in cities and neighborhoods. Families are broken and people live in fear. Authority figures like the police have come under scrutiny for their seemingly rough tactics. People are upset and look for justice, for peaceful relations, and for equality. Unfortunately, tensions and strife are the consequence of sinful human nature and the fallen nature of creation due to it.
The only solution was for God to intervene. He promised a Savior (Genesis 3:15) who would destroy the evil which befell God’s good creation. He would submit to the death penalty imposed on mankind for its sinfulness. By His holy life and obedience to God’s will, He accomplished reconciliation for all humanity. The cross has become an appropriate symbol of human diversity brought together to form a unity. The cross is an instrument of death, and death’s tyranny devours life and leaves humanity desperately groping for assurance and hope. Christ’s cross brings such hope. It was in Christ that God and man were reconciled. Christ calls us to friendship. He established a relationship of love, restoring mankind to their place before God, redeemed and forgiven. The mission for His Church was to bring that message of love to the world, to heal and restore relationships among humanity.
It wouldn’t happen overnight. God in Christ would continue the saving task by building on the foundation of Christ’s cross of love and reconciliation. Believers would participate in the saving mission by sharing the good news with all. Jesus told His disciples before His Passion to “love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). It would only be through Christ’s atoning death that people would see and respond in faith to love one another.
It seems incredible that the holy and obedient Son of God would stoop to submit to shame, ridicule, mockery and cruel death, to save sinful humanity. By His grace and mercy, Christ loved His enemies and embraced us as His friends. Jesus would go the way of the cross, even though His dear friend Peter would deny Him, and Thomas would doubt His resurrection. He would be questioned by Pharisees like Nicodemus, and a rich man would walk away from Him. Even though sinners flocked to Him and babies were blessed by Him, mourning women would follow Him, and soldiers would crucify Him.
We can find ourselves in that crowd of undeserving, troubled, broken humanity. Yet Jesus died for all of us. Jesus encountered people who loved Him and others who hated Him, those who admired Him and those who were jealous of Him. Yet He gave His life “a ransom for many” (Mt 20:28). He laid down His life so that we may be caught up in His sacrifice of love which saves us. He is truly our dearest friend, loyal, trustworthy, and truthful. As friends by faith, we share with others the goodness of His love. He calls us His friends and we befriend our neighbors in kind. We are a diversity of humanity, like irregular shaped confetti. Jesus makes us a cruciform-shaped body of believers. “Good Christian friends, rejoice and sing! Now is the triumph of our King! To all the world glad news we bring: (thrice) Alleluia!”