Lent, Part 4: The Cruciform Life

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“Next the devil took him to the peak of a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. ‘I will give it all to you,’ he said, ‘if you will kneel down and worship me.’

‘Get out of here, Satan,’ Jesus told him. ‘For the Scriptures say, ‘You must worship the Lord your God and serve only him.’

Then the devil went away, and angels came and took care of Jesus.”

—Matthew 4:8-11

Lent is about submission.  It’s a tangible way that we speak a resounding NO to power, and YES to our Father. Jesus was committed to living the life of a servant, and Lent is a time when we consciously join him in complete surrender to God’s ways.

“What makes the temptation of power so seemingly irresistible? Maybe it is that power offers an easy substitute for the hard task of love. It seems easier to be God than to love God, easier to control people than to love people, easier to own life than to love life.”

—Henri Nouwen

Power is efficient, love is not.

The world runs on systems of power: those with power get things done and have the resources, and those without it do not. Fighting for power is simply the way of the world. Controlling situations and people can seem like the easiest way to accomplish a purpose, even a well-intentioned one. Loving people who are imperfect is messy, and it has infuriatingly unpredictable outcomes.

Instead of taking the power offered to him, Jesus chose the way of love. He chose submission and humility over self-glorification, and he chose sacrificial love over the “easy way out.” Saying no to the enemy meant saying yes to the cross. Satan’s proposal seemed much more painless, but Jesus still refuses.

“Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.”

—Philippians 2:6-8

Jesus’ way of life is the cruciform life. He served though he was king, he showed compassion when the world showed disdain, he was kind to those who spat upon him and executed him, and he obeyed his Father, even unto death.

So what does it mean for us, as his followers, to live the cruciform life? How do we live it? By always and ever acting in love, when all the world is antagonizing us, shouting at us to hate. By stretching out our arms in welcome and surrender, when our natural instincts are telling us to recoil, to hide, and to defend ourselves. By choosing to serve others rather than control them. We must choose the way of the cross.

Jesus stretches out his arms in complete submission. He stretches them out in an act of sacrifice, an act diametrically opposed to the ways of self-protection and guardedness. We must follow his example.

Lent is an opportunity for us to examine ourselves, and to purge ourselves from the ways in which we’ve become entangled with the world’s systems of power. As followers of Jesus, let’s choose submission to our Father and his plan over the temptation to act efficiently and painlessly.

This week, I’m asking myself these questions, and giving time for the Holy Spirit to speak and guide me to the answer…will you join me?

1.) How have I been seeking to control others instead of simply loving them?

2.) In what situations have I been seeking “the easy way out,” instead of submitting to God in something that may seem difficult, sacrificial, or scary?

*photo credit: By Bjoertvedt (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

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