Good Friday and the Cross as God’s Claim on the World
In the fifth chapter of The Brothers Karamazov, we are told that Ivan Fyodorovich has written a controversial article arguing against the separation of church and state. He is more claiming that the Orthodox Church fails when it forgets that it contains the world and believes that the world somehow contains the church.
This rather small vignette in the great sweep of the novel points to the very heart of our mistake as Christians today. We forget that the Church contains the world, that the Kingdom of God is everywhere and eternal, and that the cross is more than a symbol but a claim.
The Church contains the World. This is exactly the opposite of what we think. We have fallen for the lie that Christianity is a store at the world’s mall of faith, another option among the options. But, in fact, the claim of the Church is that everything belongs to God.
What does not belong to God? Who is not God’s child and heir?
If God is the Creator of all things, then God has claim to everything and everyone. We fall away, but that does not negate God’s reign or rule. This was what Jesus claimed from the beginning of his ministry, that the Kingdom of God had come.
In the Law and Prophets it was revealed what God’s kingdom people was to look like. In the light of that vision, we all fail. But that does not negate the reality. Our problem is that we either want to be God or make him a god among the gods of this world.
But Jesus revealed God to us as the compassionate Father, merciful, forgiving, gentle. He does not cross or kill or destroy us. He does not force us to be what we were made to be. The cross is the mark of his character, a God who is revealed in one who dies rather than kills. A God of love.
Because God loves the world that belongs to him, he seeks to save it from the ways of death and destruction. He calls us time and time again. He comes to us in his Son, the Prince of Peace, Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God.
But Christ the Son, in whom the fullness of God rested, has to choose again and again whether he will be a god among the gods with a kingdom in this world or be the Son of God. His choice is the cross. He faces death and utter disgrace because only in this is the revelation of a completely different God, kingdom, and hope.
We forget. We crown kings, forgetting that God is our King, Christ his prince. His rule is written in our very hearts by the Holy Spirit. We build temples, forgetting that everywhere is God’s. Choose your building. Choose your highest mountain or lowest valley. There is no where you can go away from the presence of God. We do not need a king or a temple. We only need to worship.
Every Good Friday we are reminded that we too face the choice. To whom does all of this belong to? Whose are we?
The cross lays a claim on us, and indeed on all creation. The world belongs to God and so to his Church. That’s why we always pray for the Church and then the world and then the nations and then individuals. For we and all the world belong to the Church, and the cross is the center of the world, the central claim of God, the God who would rather die disgraced than be another option at the mall.
Ivan was right.