Odd question, isn’t it? But it keeps running through my head as I ponder the meaning of the Cross this Lenten season. Of course it wasn’t any single nail, but the perfected torture of nails through both wrists and feet (or ankles) that caused death by asphyxiation–the slow agony of crucifixion. To become human, to experience betrayal, to die a death so painful (literally, “excruciating”) and humiliating–these are powerful acts by which God expresses to us a love truly more powerful than the grave.
But I’m convinced there’s much more to the method of Jesus’ death than the perverse brilliance of Roman torture. I’ve come to believe that while his executioners nailed Jesus’ extremities on those beams to stretch his body apart, he was at the same time showing us how to hold those extremes together–even at the cost of his own life. Too many of us–perhaps all of us, at some point–become convinced that we know exactly how Jesus feels about one matter or another (amazing how much Jesus’ views match our own, isn’t it?). And we nail Jesus down– He’s a moralist. He’s compassionate. He’s a judge. He’s non-judgmental. He’s a Republican. He’s a Democrat. And we each have the argument to prove it, the scripture quote to nail Jesus down to our position.
I don’t think Jesus lived, died and rose again in order to hallow any single position, particularly about many of the nonessential matters over which we disagree–but rather to show that in order to be his followers, we’d have to recognize that any time we claim Jesus’ position as our own, we’re crucifying him again, nailing him down as brutally as any Golgotha Centurion. We are called to recognize that Jesus was willing to die to make sure that, in his body, we’re all held together, regardless of the positions we’re trying to nail down. More importantly, we recognize that he calls us to the same willingness to die ourselves, to surrender our need to exclude those who’ve nailed down positions other than our own.
Playing “gotcha” has become political sport in our day–tripping someone up to prove that her/his position is wrong, or at least not as right as our own. Jesus plays a different kind of “gotcha.” He says, “I gotcha, no matter where you are, or how goofed up you might be–and I got him, her and them as well. And I’ll die to prove it. I’ve got you all, and I won’t let go.”
That’s not to say that there aren’t positions to fight, even to die for, or faithful principles that put us in direct opposition to others. But one of the powerful ways we have to witness to the world is to show how people can differ, even intensely, and still maintain unity for the sake of Christ; that difference doesn’t automatically mean division. What would it mean if only a small fraction of the people we encounter could be convinced that such unity is possible?
Where is that unity most needed where you live? How is Christ being nailed down all over again? To what do you need to die in order that the Body of Christ may live its unity to the fullest?