The Wealth of the Cross
Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. 1 Peter 3:15
For the past few years, I have been involved in interviewing the Evangelists-in-Training at Church Army to hear about what they are learning, and how they are developing in their knowledge and skills to be the very best evangelists that they can be. There are a few themes that come up repeatedly:
- How fantastic and supportive the training team are, which I agree with!
- The genuine enthusiasm and excitement from the Evangelists-in-Training about all they are learning, whether from their local context, from their peers, or from the weekends spent at the Wilson Carlile Centre.
Whilst I can understand being excited about learning, one of the things that has surprised me a little bit is the sheer exuberant enthusiasm that the Evangelists-in-Training have in their voices and in their manner when discussing one particular module… the atonement! Perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised, but this is always the topic that seems to engage and excite the Evangelists-in-Training the most. But the study of the reconciliation of humanity and God through Jesus Christ, summarised as atonement, is not usually something that sets theological students’ hearts racing.
It’s not called the atonement when it’s taught at Church Army, it’s called the ‘Wealth of the Cross’. It’s called that because it sums up just how much there is to discover about the great mystery that occurred when Christ died on the cross and rose again. There is a ‘wealth’ of ways of understanding what happened on the cross on that first Good Friday, and sometimes by bringing them together we get closer to understanding the great mystery of the Christian faith.
The Evangelists-in-Training are taught about how we might understand what happened on the cross as Christ winning a victory over the powers of death and sin, and thereby winning a victory for all humanity to be free from their power. They also learn that it can be understood as Christ taking on punishment for himself, despite it being humanity that is at fault, thereby setting us free despite our guilt or debt. They also learn about Christ dying on the cross as an example of God’s love, giving humanity the example of how to turn back to God in love and obedience.
The ways in which we might understand what happened on the cross goes on and on. Each way of explaining it seems to only get us so close to understanding the mystery of the cross that can never really be understood, only entered into. And by entering into the mystery of the cross, the mystery of our salvation, we allow ourselves to know and experience God’s all sufficient grace and love.
At Church Army we learn about the wealth of the cross, because it gives us the words we need to invite others into the mystery too. We have known and experienced the love of God and we long for others to have the same. We strive to share that love day by day in our actions, and we are prepared that when the opportunity presents itself, we are ready to share it in the right words too.