The decline of Christian influence in American culture can be traced directly to how we choose to commemorate Good Friday. Too often we glance at Good Friday just long enough to remember the cross and sigh at the thought of the suffering savior, then move quickly to focus on the more joyful scenes of Easter Sunday. By doing so we reduce the passion of Christ to a momentary blip on the journey from Palm Sunday’s triumphal entrance to Easter’s victorious resurrection story. The result is a Christian life that values only exaltation but has no capacity to understand, much less embrace the humiliation of the passion of the Christ we claim to follow.
Good Friday is not only a remembrance of the death of Christ, but of his complete and excruciating humiliation. Christ entered into a staggering humiliation on our behalf. The Prince of Peace became a punching bag for Roman soldiers. He was ridiculed, tormented, tortured, and hung naked in a public crossroads as an example of lawlessness and defeat. He was humiliated, shamed beyond comprehension.
And here is the kicker – he chose this route! He humbled himself (Philippians 2) so that he could be humiliated, knowing that this humiliation was an essential part of his journey – and ours. And that is the problem. Good Friday reminds us that we are called to take up our own cross and follow Christ’s footsteps into humiliation. Perhaps that is why we move past it so quickly. We like the victory and triumph of Easter, but we want to get there without going through the passion and the humiliation of Good Friday.
If we choose to ignore this humiliation, we make Good Friday irrelevant. If we do not see in Christ’s passion our own call into a life of humility, brokenness and ultimate submission then we have stripped the cross of its relevance. The result of this sideways glance at Good Friday is a fixation on power and position and pride and prestige and prominence that has sadly become associated with evangelical leadership and life. Would the world view us as judgmental, narrow, close-minded and out of touch if our defining characteristic was our deep humility and sincere brokenness? The crisis in leadership we face is the result of a rejection of the way of the cross. Consequently, the revival of the church in America will only come when that path has been recovered and evangelicals by the millions embrace the humility of the cross over a counterfeit thirst for triumph and glory. “If my people, who are called by my name will humble themselves, and pray…” (2 Chronicles 7:14)
We will never fully know the power of the Easter story until we have embraced the full humiliation of the passion of Good Friday. To do anything less is to render the day irrelevant. How will you honor and engage in this day of our Lord’s passion? ‘Humble yourself in the sight of the Lord, and he will lift you up.’ (James 4:10)