While I was watching TV this past weekend, I heard a man say, “All of us are heir to the idea that we die as a consequence of disobedience, and in that sense it is a punishment.” I was amazed at these words. This is an idea we all face, and it causes some of us to stumble. “If I am dying, I am being punished.” Though he was speaking of our final death, I wish to apply it to another death.
Death the Punishment
How many of us can say that death and the pain of our personal crosses feel like disapproval more than approval, anger more than love? I know I have from time to time looked at my personal crosses as more punitive than redemptive. “I am bad so God sends a cross to punish me.” Wow, what a warped way of looking at this.
A personal cross is for liberation. I am gifted through the work of the cross, not punished. Now, my resistance to the cross by choosing self-will over Christ results in chastisement, but the cross in itself is not punishment.
The whole process of death to self is my Abba’s way of fathering me. Christ Himself experienced this. Though He was God’s Son, He learned obedience through what He suffered (Hebrews 5:8 HCSB). The cross is not God’s anger and hatred; it’s His love to lead us closer.
Not God’s Punishment
Death is not the enemy. It isn’t the nuclear option to deal with His awful children. Death itself is a passage that elevates. We all will experience death without exception, and not just our ultimate death. Every crossing of my will with His is a death. Everywhere I am given a choice to obey His will for my life rather than following my own path, the cross is present. And without fail, His will is always better, even if it doesn’t appear to be at the time.
So often, I’ve colored in the lines with Him having an angry face towards me when my will isn’t in suit with His—hence the punishment. But God is being my Father, preventing me from tanking my destiny in self-will exploits. These exploits may even have to play out a bit to make the scenario obvious, but when the cross comes, it’s to free me.
I write this as a defense of the cross, to say it’s the presence of His love not evidence of my disobedience. It’s corrective not punitive, His concern not contempt. The cross is not the enemy; its presence is proof of His love. No, it doesn’t always feel good, but it’s the evidence of His desire to draw me in closer.
But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.
Galatians 6:14 NKJV