Approaching the Cross: Defining Love

As we begin our series on the Cross this Lent, today is a day we crest the hill and begin to see the lights of a far away city and get a sense of its scope. Not every detail will be visible mind you, and it never will be in this story, but we will begin to get a sense of things. 


The center of the good news is a cross upon which the son of God, a man named Jesus, died.  And it is often talked about as a God’s love.
Love has a lot of meanings these days:

  1. I love snow and ice – said no one ever – after the first few inches.
  2. I love the sun shine and warmth
  3. I love being productive.
  4. love my job.
  5. I love when the story all works out happily ever after.
  6. I love __________ fill in the blank based on your situation (friend, spouse, kids, parents)
  7. I love the cross?

Well, yes…but then again…no…I don’t love the fact that Jesus hung on the cross and died in total and utter despair and loneliness. I don’t love that it should have been me. I don’t love that the process was horrific.


Crucifixion was the most degrading form of execution, reserved for non-Roman criminals who were slaves or free persons of the lowest status. 

Keener, Craig S. The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993. Print.


Flogging until inches of your death. Walk of shame through streets carrying the instrument of your destruction. Out of town in a public place, usually near a well-traveled road, you would march and carry your cross. Upon reaching your final destination you would either be tied or nailed to the cross bar and left to hang until you drown in your own bodily fluids.

I would be a messed up person to say I loved any of that…and yet…this was exactly how God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit showed us what love looks like. The love we see from the cross is a far cry from the one we espouse today. 


The cross of Christ says that love

  1. Takes life seriously
    1. this life counts, what we do and do not do matters. God is at the ready to move life forward, with all of creation, until it and we reach our intended in which is to glorify him.
  2. Does nothing by fiat
    1. everything by working in and through us. Doesn’t wave a wand and make it happen rather takes up residence with us and sees us through.
    2. God is a hands-on king, ruler, redeemer, and friend.
  3. Becomes victorious through unconventional means
    1. at the name of Jesus every knee should bend.
    2. by his wounds / weaknesses we are healed.
    3. faith in Christ and not your own work
  4. Practices humility
    1. he humbled himself – and became obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross.
    2. Romans 2:4 – God’s kindness leads us to repentance

Love says I can.Love says I will.

Capable and compassionate. These are the two things upon which rests all of our hope. This is the type of love God showed, and gave on the cross.


With God’s help, I can be faithful to you. And I will for the rest of my life.


With God’s help, I can stand shoulder to shoulder with you in your (fill in the blank: loss, depression, doubt, fear, anxiety). And I will for as long as it takes.


With God’s help, I can forgive you. And I will not hold a grudge.

Published by Todd Nelson

I'm one of the pastors at First United Methodist Church in Lexington, Kentucky where I've served for the past thirteen years. The sub-title of this blog is "Grace is no accident" which happens to be the defining reality of my life. God's grace (gift) is the reason we have breath in our lungs and hope in our hearts.

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