Secular society occasionally gives the impression that we live in a Christian society. A first-time visitor to America during the Christmas season might think we take the celebration of our Christian faith a bit too far with all the decorations and lights. Conversely, some born and raised in the United States are concerned that society is moving away from its Judeo-Christian roots.
Now more than ever, it’s important to understand our country and the world from a different, higher perspective. As we witness events and read and watch the news, we must see things from the standpoint of God’s gift of His only Son who died a gruesome death on a cross.
In other words, we will do well to look at things with a true cross reference.
When suffering takes center stage
You need not look far to find people who are suffering. Physical and mental illness, worry about a family member serving in harm’s way or grieving over the loss of a loved one all qualify as causes for intense suffering. When that suffering makes you feel as if you’re alone, it’s time to get out your cross reference.
Jesus suffered in a way that most of God’s children will never experience or understand. As if the physical torture wasn’t cruel enough, greater agony came in the moment when the Son felt separated from the Father’s love. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mk 15:34)
Jesus loved his friend Lazarus as a brother and openly wept when He came upon the already-buried and decomposing body. Jesus felt hunger, homelessness and rejection, even in his own hometown.
The cross reference shows clearly that our Lord has been there and done that — He has felt the pain and suffered many times in many ways.
What about love?
When God looks at what we do here in this life, He goes far beyond the act itself. When we make choices, God looks at our hearts for motive. What’s behind each choice of action and reaction?
When we’re acting out of ego — pride, selfishness, self-pity — He sees it again from the cross reference and knows that some actions that look good on the surface aren’t very good at all. Jesus directed some of His most vitriolic criticism at those who did the surface things well when their hearts weren’t right.
Doing the right thing for the wrong reason doesn’t make the cut in the eternal perspective.
How do we get a clear cross reference? Before we act, we can ask ourselves: “By taking this course of action, am I showing love for God and others or am I serving only myself and my interests?” If we answer the question honestly, we get a quick score without any wiggle room.
There’s always a primary motive and it’s an either/or result. We can benefit ourselves by acting out of love for God and others, and there’s nothing wrong with that. What matters is our purity of heart, the place where the Father knows our motives are focused on Him alone.
Waging war and hurting one another
Turning the other cheek has never been popular in the history of the world. Jesus modeled that behavior so many times during His passion and death, and wars fought in the name of God likely don’t get His favor. Since His kingdom is not of this world, wars serve only to hate and hurt one another, not love.
The cross reference: there seems to be no earthly solution when hatred and fear rise to such heights. That’s exactly why God’s truth and divine intervention should prevail, with decisions made out of love for God and His children — all of His children.
When war is waged so that someone’s personal or political agenda is served, there’s no fooling God. God sees our hearts. No matter how hard we try, we can’t hide or disguise our true motives, and referencing the cross can help us understand them.
John Earl Carroll is a consultant, and president of Unlimited Performance, Inc., in Mount Pleasant. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.