The Intersection of Hate and Love – by Greg Albrecht
To love means loving the unlovable. To forgive means pardoning the unforgiveable. Faith means believing the unbelievable. Hope means hoping when everything seems hopeless. – G.K. Chesterton
The intersection of a vertical pole/stake and a horizontal crossbar on the Cross of Christ reveals its earthshaking, far-reaching significance. This intersection of two pieces of lumber reminds us of the cosmic collision at the crossroads of the vertical love of God and the horizontal hatred of our world.
The Prince of Peace came down from the eternity of the kingdom of heaven and responded to human hatred and violence with non-violence – he returned love for hatred. The Cross of Christ stands as an eternal memorial of a head-on collision at the intersection of the vertical power of God’s love with the horizontal love of power.
Jesus died on a Roman cross – Rome was, at the time, the ultimate symbol of power on this planet earth. Rome brutally enforced its will and authority by crushing all adversaries and silencing all voices that dared to dissent. Crucifixion was the most painful, humiliating and shameful form of torture – the brute power that sowed fear in the hearts and souls of any who would dare to get in the way of Rome.
When they killed Jesus, all who were part of human tyrannical power, including Rome as well as the authoritarian religion of Palestine, thought they had won! When the vertical power of God’s love intersected with horizontal love of power it seemed, from the human perspective, that violence, hatred and lust for power triumphed in this cosmic collision! Initially, when Jesus fully incarnated the fullness of God’s love on his Cross, it seemed that he was a loser. Perceived as it was, from our human horizontal dimension, no one who witnessed Jesus on his Cross would have described him as the victor!
Anyone then watching the agony, pain and shame of his Cross had to perceive Jesus as a loser! Bystanders must have concluded that the Cross was a disgraceful and ignominious display of the weakness and powerlessness of Jesus. If we humans don’t understand something, then we tend to mock it, assuming that our perceptions and knowledge will forever stand unchallenged. The Cross of Christ was such a humiliating spectacle that those watching could only resort to nervous derision and laughter:
The people stood there staring at Jesus, and the ringleaders made faces, taunting, “He saved others. Let’s see him save himself! The Messiah of God – ha! The Chosen – ha!” The soldiers also came up and poked fun at him, making a game of it. They toasted him with sour wine: “So you’re the King of the Jews! Save yourself!” Printed over him was a sign: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.
– Luke 23:35-38, The Message
The unseen reality of all the cosmic forces being unleashed at the Cross is astonishing and amazing. The true significance of the Cross was not realized or understood by anyone who witnessed it then, and there is still much confusion about its meaning, even within Christendom at large.
Sadly, many are taught that the significance of the Cross of Christ was that God was pouring out his wrath on his Son – they believe God the Father was outraged with the sins of humanity and his justice and holiness had to be vindicated. They
erroneously believe Jesus stepped in as the substitute for all humanity, taking the beating and torture and humiliation and shame the Father would have rained down on us. According to this widely prevailing view, the Cross of Christ was God the Father torturing and killing God the Son, instead of you and me!
- But a collision of the vertical power of God’s “wrath” with the horizontal crossbar of the Son’s incarnate revelation as a human being was a divine impossibility – Father, Son and Holy Spirit are one eternally united, harmonious God – thus the Father could not, by definition, have killed Jesus!
- If Father God could only be “satisfied” by innocent blood that would calm his “wrath,” then why didn’t he “let” Herod kill Jesus just after he was born?
- If Father God cannot bear the presence of sin and sinners then why did Jesus, God in the flesh, who came to fully reveal the Father, spend so much time with the lowest of the low, the sick, diseased, enslaved and addicted of his day?
- When you read the Gospels, it is clear that Jesus was forgiving people all the time – if the Father can’t forgive anyone unless his holiness is vindicated and his wrath is satisfied, and since Jesus was and is God, then what was Jesus doing?
The Cross of Christ is about the vertical love of the One God being met with the hatred, bloodshed and violence of the horizontal world of humanity. The Cross of Christ is when horizontal human hatred poured out its wrath on the divine, vertical love of God, and crucified God in the flesh.
Far from losing this cosmic confrontation, the Cross of Christ stands supreme as the once-and-for-all historic event when God rejected and reversed human violence and hatred. The love of God turned the other cheek on the Cross. Like a magnet, Jesus drew out the iron filings of dirt and filth, ingesting and absorbing all evil and corruption into his love. The Cross of Christ was when the power of God’s love, a divine lightning bolt from above, shattered the brutality of hatred and violence, winning this titanic cosmic collision.
Therein lies the great divine irony of the Cross – the Cross of Christ is when the power of God’s love non-violently overcame the human love of power. The Cross of Christ is the critical intersection of God’s love with human hatred, when God, in the person of Jesus, transformed and redeemed hatred and violence with non-violence. Jesus willingly accepted all human hatred and violence, without responding in kind, and in so doing the power of God’s love overcame the human love of power.
- If the Cross of Christ represents God’s wrath being poured out, then how is his love superior to human hatred and violence?
- If God the Father had met the violence of human hatred with an outpouring of his own retributive, vengeful, raw power, then our God is no different than the pagan gods who are believed to rule by brute force and who react in punitive anger when they are displeased.
God is not hatred and revenge and punishment. God is love. The power of God’s love overcame the human love of power on the Cross of Christ.
In our practical everyday lives, the Cross of Christ assures us that God is present and working in our world even when our lives are falling apart – even when we are discovering that we are powerless and we cannot overcome the odds stacked against us. The Cross of Christ is Jesus meeting us in the midst of our own shame and humiliation – of depression, abandonment, disease, envy, lust, hatred and greed.
The Cross of Christ enables and empowers us to walk in the light, rather than in darkness – to be transformed from our weakness by the power of God – to embrace the grace of God that conquers our guilt and shame – and to exchange our past failures for hope in Christ.
The Cross of Christ stands as the crowning, never-to-be surpassed monument to the power of God’s love – when Jesus, out of his love for us, gave us the ultimate gift – himself. The Cross of Christ is the vertical love of God meeting the hatred of our horizontal world – and triumphing over it.
The Cross of Christ is the presence of Jesus in the most ugly, foul and reprehensible evils that will ever occur in the horizontal dimension experienced on our planet earth, taking on his shoulders all of the perversion and corruption that mankind has ever or will ever generate – and letting it all be swallowed up in his death on his Cross.
All the corruption and evil of our entire world – past, present and future – is on the Cross of Christ. The Cross of Christ is the love of God being fully and ultimately demonstrated and revealed as it is irrevocably and deeply intertwined with suffering and sacrifice.
Join me and all our Friends and Partners around this world in grateful thanksgiving for the Cross of Christ – the greatest demonstration of the greatest love – when the power of God’s love overcame the human love of power. And thank you for joining forces with us as we continue to proclaim that God is love, not hate – forgiveness, not retribution and vengeance.
In Jesus’ Precious Name,
Friend and Partner Letter from March 2017