Gory Glory

batteryHere’s a question.  If I’m a Christian then why do I feel so messed-up? Isn’t Jesus supposed to come in and deal with the bad?  And if it doesn’t happen instantly,well HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE?

Isn’t the Christian life about getting better?  And in the meantime, what am I supposed to do with all my stuff?  I’ve been a Christian now for years. By this stage I should be jumping the toadstools of suffering and going straight to the next level. In reality I’m looking at my toes instead of planting churches.  I’m not taking new ground – I’m crying out for help to stand.

The Christian life – my Christian life – does not look the way I imagined.  I knew I needed help – but I thought I could do some of it myself. And I knew there’d be death at the start of it – but not every day. So.  Either I’m thinking about this wrong – or I’m living a lie. The question is, which?

What I’m wrestling with is something other Christians have thought about too.  Luther, for one.  It’s the difference between a theology of glory and a theology of the cross.

A theology of glory sees suffering as a painful detour that we just need to move past.  The cross is a means to an end: like Jesus giving us a leg up and leaving us to run the rest. We’re saved because Jesus zaps us and we know we’re saved because we struggle less.  We can say with confidence, ‘I’m getting better all the time.’

This is lovely if you get zapped. But what if you don’t?  What if you’re still struggling with issues that don’t seem to go away?  What if instead of getting better, you feel more and more aware of your own mess? Suddenly what seemed to be good news becomes very bad news instead – because there’s a kingdom of shiny happy Christians and you’re not in it.

A theology of the cross is very different.  The cross here is everything and not  just as an unavoidable detour or a fix-it.  Because this is where the action happens and this is where Jesus shows up.

A theology of the cross means that we don’t always get zapped.  We struggle and yet that’s good, because Jesus is with us. It’s not about self-reliance; but neither is it the despair of misery for its own sake. It’s the hope we don’t expect. Strength that looks like weakness.  Life  that looks like death.  A hero who DIES. And yet – this is The Plan.  The cross is a picture of who God actually is and how He actually loves us. Through suffering. And dependence.  And mess.

So when I wake up and I can’t do it I don’t despair. If Jesus is the God of the cross, then maybe this is the right place.

For more on theology of the cross, have a read HERE.



7 thoughts on “Gory Glory

  1. Spot on. Emma. The church as a glorious host, banners unfurled and mighty, is yet to come – the church now, as Lewis notes, is far more akin to a hospital, and I for one am grateful when it is, because I’m usually on the casualty list. Luther’s theology of the cross is essential stuff as we die to the old and look to the promises of the new – it’s often uncomfortable to face it as we deal with these decaying old natures, but it focuses us on the right place to see hope instead of a dualistic pit that leaves us devoid of seeing what God truly promises.

  2. Who are these shiny happy Christians who have it all sorted? I’m not one, that’s for sure. I know a few who would like me to think that they are in this gang but I’m not sure. The Cross is for grown-ups and is about real life I think.

  3. Really helpful post. I have been feeling like I should be a shiny happy Christian in order to be used by God so it is a real encouragement to read this and to be helped myself by someone who struggles – makes me hope that in my struggles I can be helpful to someone too!

  4. Howard sent me over. Glad he did (thank you, Howard!)

    Of course you are “spot on”, Emma, as Howard said.

    The trouble lies in the preachers. Preachers who are theologians of glory and ladder climbers. Preachers who do not understand what God has done for us, in Word and sacrament. So then the whole thing MUST go somewhere else…and place is inevitably us.

    They turn the whole thing into a project.

    If the preaching and teaching can somehow be reformed, then the rest will fall into place.

    This was Luther’s aim.

    Thanks, so much.

  5. … the cross is the meeting place.
    For some reason, ‘Find Me In The River’ springs to mind as I read this post.
    Hope you’re okay Emma. I think of you often.

    PS… New blog)

  6. Thanks Howard. Old Adam – thanks for stopping by: I’ll definitely return the favour. And WS – looking forward to reading your new blog too.

    Heloise and Lesley: glad I’m not on my own in not being shiny..

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