Monday, August 24, 2009

Cross Reflections

For Paul, the cross summed up everything that is wrong and right with the world--all at the same time. Injustice and justification, abuse and healing, brokenness and restoration, curse and blessing.

This has led me to think through the cross as a paradigm for dealing with abuse, especially keying on Jesus' words. I haven't experienced horrible abuse; I've known several wounded souls who have. And, even though I can't say, "I know how you feel" maybe Jesus does. Could his experience become the crucible of healing--a paradigm of restoration--for those who suffer such atrocities?

First, one cries out, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Abuse feels like abandonment. Then, one decides that he/she will no longer be defined by the abuse, "Father, forgive them; they don't know what they are doing." Absolution is a divine work. Ultimately, the suffering commits themselves afresh to God's care, "Into Thy hands, I commit my spirit." For destiny belongs to the One who creates something out of nothing and turns evil on its ugly head.

Could this be the way of solace for those who need peace? The cross of Jesus Christ.


Joshua Collins said...

For those who have been abused, the arena of forgiving the abuser is absolutely dead in the water without the cross. Knowing that justice for sin has been dealt upon Christ frees one from vengeance and points them towards prayer for the enemy's rescue as well, knowing that justice has already been accomplished.

Chris Ryan said...

Though I had not put it together like that, that is my story. From the anger of "Why hast though forsaken me?" to the pardon of "Father, forgive," even to moving forward, "Into thy hands..." And like Christ (though I certainly am not Him), within the course of one day. God's grace and peace certainly surpass understanding. But I cannot imagine life without them.

Great post. And I think you are really on to something here.

But for an afterthought: Paul also said that it was all meaningless apart from the resurrection. Does "He is Risen!" have anything to add to this? I'm willing to wager it does.

And I love that the first day of classes is the day you have time for a post. :)

Darryl Schafer said...

Volf is running through my head as I read this. If Jesus' story here is to serve as a paradigm for healing, then the sequence seems rather important. Before true healing and restoration can begin, forgiveness of the oppressor by the afflicted is absolutely necessary. At first glance, this might sound harsh to the afflicted, making it sound as if the oppressor gets off free and clear without any recognition of the wrong heaving been done. And here is where Volf's voice comes ringing through for me: forgiveness isn't a "let's just forget all about it" mentality; it is a necessary naming and shaming of the atrocities committed (Father, forgive them, for they know not WHAT THEY DO). Evil cannot be forgiven until is exposed to the light and seen for what it really is. Forgiveness is the true recognition of evil, but it is also the tool that enables us to live as people who will not be defined by what we have endured. Forgiveness of the other is just as much for "us" as it is for "them" (Matthew 6:14-15). There is the whole matter of memory and remembering rightly, and Volf addresses that elsewhere. But for now, I think you're on to something here.

jesnicole said...

Dr. Reeves, thanks for this post. It's much harder to forgive people who think there's nothing that needs to be forgiven. However, that's exactly what I've learned to do over the past year. It is NOT EASY. Yet, I will keep on doing just that. And hope that others do the same to me.

After all, I've learned in my life when I choose to hang on to what others have done against me, as unjustly as those things may be.....I'm having a hand in letting evil win out. That's not something I want to have a hand in.

rc said...

When I was younger I thought I had dealt with everything. I moved on with life convinced that I was healed. Ha! Now that I'm, ahem, older, I realize that it is much more of a process than my younger, more arrogant self would have ever believed. And I'm okay with that. My faith is more authentic this way, and I better understand what it is to share in the sufferings of Christ.

Volf makes some good points and I'm all for forgiveness, but I do not believe it is necessary for true healing to begin. I believe it brings depth to the healing God has already begun, but it isn't the catalyst for healing, nor is it the only part of the healing process.

No one should make the assumption that healing is easy or instantaneous, nor achieved in three easy steps. For many people it looks nothing like that, but that doesn't mean that God isn't at work.

Thank you for your post Dr. Reeves, I look forward to reading more or your thoughts.

Rodney Reeves said...

Thanks, everyone, for contributing to this discussion.

rc: I'm sorry for the horrible abuse that you've suffered. And, I think you're right: working through the grief/pain/shame takes time; it is a process (so the experts say).

And although it may sound trite, all the more reason to revisit the cross every time the loneliness overwhelms us.

I walked with parents through the tragedy of the Jonesboro shootings in 1998. It was horrible, it was devastating, it was dark. The grace of God that washed over the wounded brought a specter of light--hope--that overwhelmed evil. We were determined that we were not going to be defined by the atrocity. Gathering up that resolve was part of the healing that continues even to this day, I'm sure, for those parents who buried their little girls and a husband who buried his wife over eleven years ago.

We are not alone.