The Purpose of the Cross

Years ago a Protestant mega-pastor wrote the book “The Purpose Driven Life.” The subtitle was “What on Earth am I here For?” Great title and a great question. The content of the book was helpful in places and, frankly, a bit theologically shallow and even questionable in places. But, come on, the greatest value in the book was finally raising the issue in a generation of people who had become gripped by the chase of comfort and pleasure. What is your purpose in life?

Of course, you know my work is all about being “Orthodox on Purpose.” But that begs the question as well: What does that even mean?

The truth is purposefulness is key to living your life well instead of life living you! You have to drill down into your own soul and find out who you are and WHY you are here! Purpose is vital to becoming truly human.

Look at our lesson today in Galatians 2:21; 3:1-7:

Brethren, I do not nullify the grace of God; for if justification were through the law, then Christ died to no purpose. O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law, or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun with the Spirit, are you now ending with the flesh? Did you experience so many things in vain? – if it really is in vain. Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith? Thus Abraham “believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.” So you see that it is men of faith who are the sons of Abraham.

St. Paul deals with the purpose of the death of Jesus Christ with these Galatians. There was real problems in the Galatian Church because there had been some teachers that had told the gentiles in the Galatian Church that they had to become Jewish before they could become Christian. And St. Paul says that this false teaching actually undermines and misunderstands the very purpose of the Death of Jesus Christ.

To understand the actual purpose of an event, or a person, or even a philosophy or ideology, one must grasp the fundamental reason for the existence of the event, or person, or philosophy. And St. Paul insists that the Death of Jesus Christ was for the purpose of destroying death for all humanity. So, then, to teach that something else had to be done to undo the power of mortality over we humans was to steal the very purpose of the Cross in the Christian Faith. Paul insists that is absolutely unacceptable. God gifts eternal life to all humanity through the trampling down of death by the death of the Giver of Life! Death is defanged! The Sting of Death is REMOVED!

To be sure, if eternal life is won by the Lord’s voluntary and life-giving death on the cross as St. Paul insists, then to suggest that more had to be accomplished is to “nullify the grace of God.”

You see, dear one, the fundamental purpose of the Orthodox Way is to wake up to God’s incredible and loving grace towards you and then to stir within you such gratitude and love that your life is forever reformed into a grateful person united with Christ and His Church, the new community made up of people living such grateful lives that the whole world is transfigured!

So, today, are you under the mistaken impression that your religious life is a series of “obligations” so that God will love you? If so, you’ve never learned the real purpose of the Lord Jesus and His gift of life to you. And you’ve fallen into the delusion that you have the power to make God happy or mad. NO. Your purpose is to become so grateful that your whole life reflects gratitude to God every single day! That’s being Orthodox on Purpose!

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