As a Christian, who am I? As Christians, who are we?
Lots of different answers are given to this one, many of which we don’t speak out loud, but simple assume.
Other answers are spoken out loud, at times, but perhaps they do not seep in deeply enough to come to the point of “unspoken assumption,” a bedrock presupposition that drives our lives without our knowing it.
A storied theology that places the story of the cross at the center of our story as God’s people should tell us some things about ourselves. We know these things. At least, we know many of them, but too many are allowed to fall away.
The cross is a story that tells us, among other things, that the world is in need of transformation in order to attain to the beauty and perfection that God wants for it.
It’s a story that tells us the way into God’s kingdom is through a self-renunciation, a receipt of forgiveness, a being set free.
But in the process, we discover that there is a beloved “I” who is engaged in this transformation. We are not a despised people who have to become someone else in order to be beloved of God. Instead, we are beloved people who are made more truly ourselves as we come to God in Jesus Christ.
But we don’t believe it.
In the Presbyterian liturgy there is a refrain I have, at times, found myself repeating every week:
Friends, believe the good news of the gospel.
In Jesus Christ we are forgiven. Thanks be to God!
At this moment, we have denied the economy by which most of us live our lives.
We offer an idea. We put ourselves out there. It is ours. And so when someone disagrees, it crushes us.
We get in a fight with our spouse, our friend, our sister, our brother. We believe that we were right. We feel that to let go of that, to admit that we were wrong, would be death. We have wrapped ourselves into what we have done.
And we’re right.
To admit we’re wrong would be death.
But it’s the death of those whose stories are defined by the cross of Christ–a death that resolves in resurrection.
In that moment, when we must. have. our. own. way. in that moment, we have left aside the fact that our defining narrative is the narrative of the cross. We have forgotten that who we are at the core of our being is not defined by our being right, awesome, powerful, amazing.
But, paradoxically, who we are most truly, the way in which we have found life, is not by clinging to the life we had, but in giving it up. In dying. In asking for forgiveness.
“I believe in the forgiveness of sins.”
This is not something that is to be lived out in vague generalities.
Because we are the cross people, we are the forgiveness people: embodying the equally difficult tasks of asking for forgiveness and of extending it to the people around us.
It feels like death to admit when we’re wrong. And, it probably is death, because we are wrapped up in the things we’ve done, the things we’ve said–they are part of our defining narrative.
But a greater narrative provides a greater definition. It is the narrative of the cross that says to all those things I either can’t or won’t or don’t want to turn from: These, too, are forgiven. Yours is a better story.
Thanks be to God.