As I read through the lesson from Galatians for Sunday, all sorts of things jumped out at me. I love Paul’s understanding of forgiveness and restoration in the community of faith, “… if anyone is detected in a transgression, you who have received the Spirit should restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness.” I always get a laugh when Kindergarten Paul shows up in Galatians 6 (tip of the hat to my DMin colleague Stuart for that name), “See what large letters I make when I am writing in my own hand!” But what really caught my eye this morning was Paul’s interesting use of the cross.
“May I never boast of anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”
It seems to me this is a very different theology of the cross than we are used to seeing. This isn’t Anselm’s Substitutionary Atonement. It isn’t Christus Victor. In fact, it seems to have nothing to do with the salvific work of God for the individual human at all. What does it mean that the world has been crucified to us and us to the world?
Tom Wright, in his Paul for Everyone offers a helpful explanation, “Paul opens up, here in the last segment of the letter, a god’s-eye view of reality which lifts our minds and hearts out beyond Galatia, out beyond the sordid details of campaigns and pots in the primitive church, and out into the rich and wide-ranging purposes of the God of love for the whole cosmos. Not only has the messiah been crucified. Not only have Christians been crucified with him (2.19-20; 5.24). The world itself has been crucified. Calvary was the turning-point of history. The cosmos has had sentence of death passed on it – so that God’s new world, God’s new creation, can be born out of the old. This new creation began with Jesus himself at his resurrection, continues with the Spirit-given new life which wells up in all those who belong to the Messiah, and will go on until, as Paul says in Romans 8, the whole creation will be set free from its own slavery and will share the freedom of the glory of God’s children.” (p. 82)
The work of Christ wasn’t just for me. It wasn’t just for you. The salvation of Jesus isn’t between “me and my God,” but rather is the restoration of all of creation, from the single celled organism to the top of the food chain. We have been set free to join together to bring about the Kingdom of God. That’s a very different theology of the cross than we’re used to hearing, but dang if it isn’t a really good one.