In chapter two of The Crucified God, Jurgen Moltmann criticizes the misconceptions Christians have of the cross. For starters, for years Christians have tried to put roses around the cross to make it all nice and pretty. But according to Moltmann, ancient Israel understood crucifixion as being “rejected by [your] people, cursed among the people of God by the God of the law, and excluded from the covenant of life” (33). Which is why most Christians don’t want to think about how horrible the cross really is. Crucifixion is arguably the most humiliating way to die!
This is also why the cross is often a comforting image for people under oppression, especially the many African-American slaves. For them, the cross means that God suffers with the oppressed. “By his suffering and death, Jesus identified himself with those who were enslaved, and took their pain upon himself” (48). However, the cross isn’t meant to encourage passive suffering; it is meant to bring liberation to the oppressed.
And the cross is meant to be a way of life, too. “To follow Jesus,” Moltmann writes, “always means to deny oneself and to take ‘his cross’ on oneself” (54). And to deny oneself is to empty one’s own self-glorification, which will in turn liberate the dehumanized in society.
I struggle a lot with the whole idea of self denial. How can I deny myself if myself keeps following me around all day? Besides, I beat myself up enough, so why can’t I give myself a little credit once in awhile? Where’s the harm in that?
But I think what Moltmann is saying is that if I want to follow Jesus, I have to stop thinking that the world revolves around me. In Jesus, there is no power struggle where one person dominates the other. On the contrary, since Jesus emptied Himself on the cross, that means I need to check all the stuff I cling onto to show how I’m better than everyone else at the door, if I understand correctly.
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