Unification News for December 2003 and January 2004

Affirmation - Transition from the Era of the Cross to the Crown

As Christian believers we affirm that Christ died for our sins; that we are redeemed through the atoning power of Christís blood shed on the cross; that his unchanging love even for those who pierced him was more powerful than death, and by the power of his love he conquered death, and resurrected to eternal life. It is thus the resurrection that is the substance of our Lordís victory and the essence of our hope. We call upon all believers to focus upon the victory embodied in the resurrection.

The crucifixion, through which the Lord demonstrated his undying, sacrificial love for us, was at the same time a painful tragedy of faithlessness. The very people whom God prepared for generations to receive him, knew him not (John 1:11). Jesus taught that "Öthe will of God [is] that you believe on him whom He hath sent" (John 6:29). Clearly, however, Jesus went the way of the cross because of the peopleís disbelief. For this reason, Stephen compared his rejection to the history of faithlessness and persecution of all of Godís prophets, acknowledging that a "stiff-necked people" had "resist[ed] the Holy Spirit," and that Christ was betrayed and murdered (Acts 7:51-52).

We no longer wish to glorify the tragedy of our rejection of him, nor to celebrate his suffering. While mindful of all he has done for us, we proclaim that "He has risen!" He is not on the cross, but has won an eternal victory that he longs to bequeath to all those who abide in him and endure to the end. The cross, then, is not the truest symbol for our life of faith.

The early Christians chose the fish as their symbol. In the Catacombs, where the vestiges of the first 3 centuries of Christian worship remain, no cross can be found. The cross was the Roman instrument of punishment for the lowliest of criminals. To early believers it represented the tragedy of Christís rejection, and the power of evil embodied in those who crucified him; hence, the hymn "The Old Rugged Cross" calls it an "emblem of suffering and shame."

The cross became a Christian symbol only in the fourth century after Christ, when the Roman emperor Constantine placed the sign of the cross on the shields of his soldiers to achieve victory in battle. It thus became a symbol of Christian conquest, even as he wedded the church to the power of the state. Tragically, through a history of inquisitions, forced conversions, and anti-semitic pogroms, this symbol that to us represents the love of God has signified intolerance and hatred to Jews, Moslems, and people of other faiths. A burning cross was the symbol of racial hatred and fear in our own nationís too-recent past.

Just as Jesus transcended the pain of the cross through loving his enemies, and has risen in victory, we look forward to the era when we, too must transcend the pain of hatred and suffering and inherit Christís victory through love. The hymn says, "I will cling to the old rugged crossÖ and exchange it one day for a crown." This is the crown of life promised to the believer who endures (James 1:12, Revelation 2:10); the crown of glory that "fadeth not away" (1 Peter 5:4). The Lord promised that the victorious believer shall sit with him "in his throne" (Revelation 3:21-22) and inherit his authority (Revelation 2:26-28). It is high time that we prepare ourselves for that inheritance.

We therefore, as those who have heard his call, hereby proclaim that the victory of Jesus Christ was not on the cross but in the resurrection on Easter Sunday. We shall no longer glorify the tragedy of our faithlessness nor revere the instrument of his death. We will instead manifest the one true sign by which he said all people would know that we belong to himĖ love. We shall love one another, even as he has loved us. And we shall love our enemies as he forgave those who nailed him. In this spirit of love, we seek to remove any barrier that has separated the Christian family from the children of AbrahamÖ our Jewish and Moslem brethren, or blocked any person of faith from knowing the love of Jesus as we have known it.

We further proclaim that the era of the cross is now at an end, as the era of the crown begins. All true believers will see the walls of race, religion and nationality come down, for the Bible teaches that "God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son..." (John 3:16). Those who remain narrow, judgmental and intolerant; those who fail to recognize that it is the power of love by which we will conquer, shall be left behind even as the religious leaders of Jesusí day understood the letter of the law, but not the spirit. As we exchange the cross for a crown, we dignify each family as true inheritors of Jesusí victory. In this way we shall usher in the day when Jesus Christ shall reign through us in our churches, our temples, our institutions and our homes as the true king of kings.

I remove the cross with the power vested in me in order to inherit my crown as a true child of God and Jesus Christ.

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