The Cross and Christian Community
The following excerpt is from John Stott’s classic book The Cross of Christ. He discusses the relationship of the cross of Christ to the importance of Christian community. The author conveys an excellent truth.
“Perhaps the reader has so far found this presentation of Christ’s cross too individualistic. If so, the balance should be redressed in this section. For the same New Testament that contains Paul’s flash of individualism ‘I have been crucified with Christ . . . I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me’ (Gal. 2:20), also insists that Jesus Christ ‘gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good’ (Tit. 2:14; Acts 2:40 – 41). Thus the very purpose of his self-giving on the cross was not just to save isolated individuals, and so perpetuate their loneliness, but to create a new community whose members would belong to him, love one another and eagerly serve the world. This community of Christ would be nothing less than a renewed and reunited humanity, of which he as the second Adam would be head. It would incorporate Jews and Gentiles on equal terms. In fact, it would include representatives from every nation. Christ died in abject aloneness, rejected by his own nation and deserted by his own disciples, but lifted up on the cross he would draw all people to himself. And from the Day of Pentecost onward it has been clear that conversion to Christ means also conversion to the community of Christ, as people turn from themselves to him, and from ‘this corrupt generation’ to the alternative society which he is gathering around himself. These two transfers – of personal allegiance and social membership – cannot be separated.
Much space is devoted in the New Testament to the portraiture of this new, redeemed society – its beliefs and values, its standards, duties and destiny. The theme of this section is that the community of Christ is the community of the cross. Having been brought into being by the cross, it continues to live by and under the cross. Our perspective and our behavior are now governed by the cross. All our relationships have been radically transformed by it. The cross is not just a badge to identity us and the banner under which we march; it is also the compass that gives us our bearings in a disorientated world.* In particular, the cross revolutionizes our attitudes to God, to ourselves, to other people both inside and outside the Christian fellowship, and to the grave problems of violence and suffering.”
(* Emphasis – my own)