Let me make a statement that all one-dimensional thinkers without exception will call a vile calumny: The Cross is not well understood in Christianity. Only one side of the Cross is well understood. The Cross, however, has two sides. Its other side is overlooked and the connection between the two sides of the Cross is not well understood at all.
There are two sides to the Cross not one: 1) the near side and 2) the far side. The bloody wounds we opened in the body of our savior, the Son of God, while He was human, alive, tender, vulnerable and our guest are a telescope through which we can catch a glimpse of heaven from here on earth. The bloody wounds pierce the veil and allow us to see from the near side of the Cross to the far side of the Cross.
Reality does not exist on a single layer. Reality has depth. Its depth comes from the existence of multiple layers of reality. Furthermore, different stories are unfolding on different layers of reality. Sometimes multiple layers of reality are connected; sometimes they are not. The ability to see the connection between layers of reality is a valuable gift.
One-dimensional thinkers only see the story that is unfolding about the Cross on the skin of reality. They have no depth to their vision. The story that is unfolding about the Cross on the subcutaneous layer of reality is hidden from them. The Cross represents a two-dimensional reality. One-dimensional thinkers simply lack the capacity to understand its two dimensions. A one gallon tank cannot handle two gallons of information.
On the near side of the Cross, one story is unfolding. It is the story of utter failure - of ignominious defeat - of terrible suffering - of the apparent victory of evil over good. Unlike the mighty God who defeated the Egyptians and saved his people, we see, when we look at the near side of the Cross, a puny God who failed to save his people from the Romans. The Romans tortured and killed Jesus. He suffered and died. In round one against the Egyptians, God won. In round two against the Romans, God lost. Between the time of the Egyptians and the time of the Romans, a mighty God had become a puny God. What happened?
However, on the far side of the Cross, a different story is unfolding. It is the story of triumphant success - of glorious victory. It is a survival story. It is the story of the victory of good over evil. On the skin of reality, we immersed the Son of God into an evil baptism (Matthew 3:13-17) - we dipped him into the boiling cauldron of suffering - we ran him through the gauntlet of torture - we launched the locomotive of evil against him. What emerged? What story unfolded on the successive layer of reality? What was the result of the test? When we look through the bloody wounds we opened in the body of the Son of God, instead of just at them, we see to the far side of the Cross. There we behold two glorious facts: 1) He did not stay dead and 2) He did not stop loving us. There we behold indestructibility. Suffering has the power to destroy anything that passes through it. Whatever survives the passage through suffering is extraordinary and attracts our attention. That He survived the passage through suffering - that he did not stay dead - revealed to us that Jesus is God. That his love for his survived the passage through suffering - that he did not stop loving us - revealed to us that divinity is love.
The Son of God did not pay us a visit to do battle with the Romans as he did with the Egyptians. Been there; done that. Our God's encounter with the Egyptians happened to reveal to us his omnipotence. Our God's encounter with the Romans happened to reveal something more extraordinary than omnipotence. It happened to reveal that divinity is love itself. He paid us a visit to do battle with the devil himself. Since the dawn of humanity, the serpent, jealous of God's love for us, has plotted to extinguish it. At Eden, the serpent reasoned, if he could induce Adam and Eve to abdicate the gift of paradise for godlessness, surely their ingratitude would extinguish God's love for humanity. The serpent's plot failed. God continued to love us nonetheless. At Calvary, the serpent reasoned, if he could induce the children of Adam and Eve to torture and kill the Son of God, surely this grievous insult to the person of the Son of God would extinguish God's love for humanity. Again, the serpent's plot failed. God continued to love us nonetheless.
We launched a freight train of evil toward him. He saw it coming. Remarkably, He stood in its path. He did not flinch. He did not cower. He did not jump out of the way. He took it on the chin. He stood firm and, by standing firm, stopped evil's progress dead in its tracks. The serpent's plan failed. Evil hit a wall. The wall that evil hit was Jesus. The bloody wounds mark the line that the Son of God drew in the sand. At his bloody wounds, evil was stopped short of its objective. Its objective was to extinguish God's love for us. It was not allowed to reach its destination. Jesus allowed it to progress so far and no farther. Jesus did not allow evil to reach his most sacred heart. He did not let evil empty his most sacred heart of his love for us or let evil drain it of a single drop.
To understand the Cross, we must consider both sides of the Cross in conjunction with each other. Our failure to consider both sides of the Cross produces a defective understanding of it.
To the one-dimensional thinker, the Cross is nothing more than suffering. We tortured and killed the Son of God while He was human, alive, tender, vulnerable and our guest. He suffered and died. This is the only story that the one-dimensional thinker sees when he looks at the Cross. This is the story that unfolded on the near side of the Cross. This is the story that unfolded on the skin of reality - on the suffering side of the Cross. The suffering side of the Cross is, however, only one side of the two sides of the Cross.
The incapacity of one dimensional thinkers to understand both dimensions of the Cross has gravely damaged the proper Christian understanding of suffering. Furthermore, their defective understanding has deleterious consequences. Moved by their desire to imitate their Lord and Master, one-dimensional thinkers rashly conclude that they must imitate his suffering. In their minds, suffering becomes the end in and of itself. Suffer and offer it up to God, they say. How fortunate are we to suffer as our Lord and Master suffered, is their perverse mantra. Oh happy suffering, they exclaim.
Beware the logic of idiots.
By looking only at the suffering side of the Cross, one-dimensional thinkers paint a picture of God as a diabolical sadist who delighted in the torture and death of his son. Our diabolical God allowed his son to take the bullet meant for us is the theory of the one-dimensional thinkers. They paint the picture of God the Father as a monster.
The picture they paint, however, is a grossly inaccurate representation of the nature of God. God is not a diabolical sadist. God is a philanthropist. God is pro-human not anti-human. God is a friend not an enemy. Only an enemy of the children of Adam and Eve would wish suffering upon us. God does not want us to suffer. Suffering is not God's intention for us. Never was, is or will be. God does not intend us to be toast here on earth, hereafter in the temporary toaster we call purgatory or in the perpetual toaster we call hell. The concept of God as the toast master (e.g. St. Lawrence) is a human notion not a divine notion. Humans build toasters; God does not. The representation of God as toast master is irreconcilable with the self-portrait of their nature that God themselves delivered to us at Calvary, and, hence, must be rejected as a counterfeit representation.
The advice of the Cross is to love not to suffer - to love despite the cost. One-dimensional thinkers think that God's advice is to suffer. Two-dimensional thinkers know better. Two-dimensional thinkers look through the bloody wounds we opened in the body of Christ. They do not stop at the bloody wounds as one-dimensional thinkers do. Two-dimensional thinkers appreciate both dimensions of reality that the Cross represents. Moved by their desire to imitate their Lord and Master, two-dimensional thinkers rightly conclude that they must imitate the love of God. In their minds, love despite the cost becomes the end in and of itself. We must love through the baptism of suffering. Love carries us through the gauntlet of suffering. How fortunate are we to love as our Lord and Master loved. Oh happy love!
When someone recommends to you to pick up your Cross, challenge his depth of understanding of the Cross. Are you being told to suffer or are you being told to love?
We cannot sanctify our suffering by presenting it on an imaginary silver platter to God as the head of the Baptist was presented to Herod Antipas. God is not Herod Antipas. Do not let one-dimensional thinkers who do not understanding the Cross persuade you of this. Remember, God is not a sadist but a philanthropist.
But if you are told to cling to your love of God and neighbor as you pass through your baptism of suffering, listen to the advice. This is what Jesus did on the Cross. Cling as Jesus clung. It is the sanctuary in the storm of suffering. This is the life preserver that will save you as you are drowning in the storm of suffering. This is the secret of the Cross. Shssssssh. It is a secret hanging in plain sight.