I listen to the podcast, “Theology in the Raw,” which is hosted by Preston Sprinkle. He interviews people with questions on hot-button issues of the day. He delves deep into controversial subjects within the churches. What I like most about Preston is his willingness to hear new ideas of belief and how Christians should act towards those who are usually not accepted.
Recently, I listened to an interview he had with Christian Gonzalez, a Greek Orthodox believer who works in Youth and Young Adult Ministries. I knew nothing about the beliefs of the Greek Orthodox church, so I was interested to learn what they are.
I came away very moved by what he said was the main thrust of his faith. It is that Jesus didn’t just die for us, he died with us In this world, we are all under the sword of death. He came to become one of us part of that was experiencing death.
This meant a lot to me because I have always believed God was responsible for me being here on this earth. I used to say to him, “If you’d have given me a choice, I would have said, ‘No thanks.’ I was pretty bitter and angry about my life and the suffering I’d gone through and the suffering I was still going through. I know this is the wrong attitude for me to have, but it is there in my heart. I give it to God and ask for peace, joy and love within. He gives it to me, but I need to ask every day or I will return to my old thinking.
Jesus dying for us was an enormous sacrifice. He didn’t die like all other people because he took the sins of the world upon him and had to pay for them with mental suffering. The Bible says he became sin for us, that he became cursed. This meant God the Father had to abandon Jesus as he died on the cross. This is why he cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” He died the death of evil, sinful people. He took their place in judgement. Like someone owed a huge debt to the bank and couldn’t repay and was going to lose everything, Jesus stepped up and paid it all.
But Jesus dying with us seems different to me. Immanuel: God with us. It feels to me like kinship and understanding what we all go through. None of us here on earth asked to be born here and God is the great creator of all things. Therefore, because we suffer, he suffered as he walked the earth. He was rejected and misunderstood by most people, even by his own brothers, who thought he had lost his mind. I believe he was lonely, sad and sometimes even afraid. I say that because he asked his Father that if it was possible, he would take the cross away. Obviously, there was no other way, even for God.
After listening to the podcast, I talked with God about this and a verse from the Bible popped into my head. It was when Jesus said, “Take up your cross and follow me.” I took that to mean, each of us has a cross. What does a cross represent? I would say sorrow, suffering, pain, dying, and humiliation. Most of us go through these things in our life, if we live long enough. And when Jesus says to pick the cross up and follow him, where is he going? He is going to die and we have to do that also. In fact, Paul says, “We die daily.” And “Put to death, therefore, the components of your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires, and greed, which is idolatry.” This is a death of our sinful nature.
We can’t do that without God, who changes our hearts and makes it possible. We just have to talk with God each day, asking for his life to be in us and to make us like Jesus. This is actually a great adventure, if we look at it like that. Of course, I didn’t, I was either mad or depressed. I feel much better now. I think it’s because when my first grandson died, I felt how God helped me cope with that. I know now that he is always there for me helping me through life.