What is Christian Literacy?

refers to the ability to use a language - to know what words means, to be able to use grammar, sentence structure, to be able to converse in that language is to be literate.

Religious literacy
means having the ability to understand and speak about our faith intelligently. It’s the ability to communicate the basic tenets of our religion.

I'm very grateful to B.U. Professor Stephen Prothero for his excellent book, "Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know and Doesn't." This book, along with my desire to teach the faith, served as the inspiration for this effort.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Beneath the Cross of Jesus

When I graduated seminary I did what a lot of my friends did. I put off entering the workforce a few more weeks and backpacked through Europe. Like most tourists I spent a lot of time in the great cathedrals. Many of them are Roman Catholic churches and therefore had large Crucifixes above the high altar. People would sit in the front pews and stare for hours at Jesus upon the Cross. I’d see them when I walked in, I’d take a tour of the cathedral, climb to the top of the steeple, go to the gift shop,and when I was leaving the same folks were still there, staring at Jesus upon the Cross, often in tears, meditating upon him. I thought of the hymn, “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.” When you survey the Wondrous Cross, what do you see there? How do you understand it?

When I look at the Cross I see at least these three things:

1. I see the Empathy of God, the empathy God has for and with humanity.
The book of Hebrews (4:15ff) speaks of Jesus as a great High Priest who connects us to God, and the writer says this: “We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tested in every way . . . so that when we approach the throne of grace, we know we’ll find mercy and help.” Hebrews 2:17 says, Christ “had to become like us in every respect,” so that we might know that our Savior knows the human experience, including death. “Therefore he is able to come to our aid.”

The British theologian John Stott wrote: “I could never myself believe in God if it were not for the Cross. In the real world of pain, how could one worship a God who was immune to it?” The Cross shows us the empathy of God.

2. Secondly, when we look at the Cross we see the supreme example of sacrificial love. St. Peter in a letter to some early Christians put it this way: “Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in his steps” (I Peter 2:21). The Cross reminds us that love is costly and often requires great personal sacrifice.

3. The Cross is our Atonement.

I Peter 3:18 - “Christ died for our sins, once and for all, in order to bring us to God.” In this act of unconditional love, God has swallowed up our sins, and has therefore made us one with our Creator once again. The Cross is our atonement, our “at-one-ment” with God. That’s something we can never totally understand this side of heaven - how God reconciled us by the Cross. But we can let the Cross of Christ do its work and bring us to God.

Question: Which one of these views of the Cross is most meaningful to you? Or is there another understanding you prefer?

Here’s a thought: Spend some time meditating on the Cross this week. Perhaps read one of the accounts of Good Friday in Matthew, Mark, Luke or John.

Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, thank you for your sacrificial love and for the gift of atonement through the Cross. Love so amazing, so divine, demands our lives, our souls, our all. Amen.

Above is Salvador Dali's "Christ of Saint John of the Cross."

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