For those of us who aren’t Catholic, we sometimes cringe at their crosses that still bear the body of Jesus, their theology of the Eucharist, and peculiar customs like fasting during Lent and the stations of the cross. But in all of these things (though, granted, this perhaps does not play out in the hearts of all Catholics) lies an obsession with this: “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me” (Gal 2:20). Perhaps the sight of Christ on the cross reminds us that we are crucified with him, that our lives as we know them are GONE. That it wasn’t maudlin or insane for a pastor to preach Judges 19 at the baptism of the little girl of one of my professors from Divinity School. That to live really is only Christ (Phil. 1:21). It isn’t having intellectual stimulation or deep emotional connections or kindred spirits (ok, so I’ve been missing college like crazy recently….). To live isn’t to live in style. To live isn’t to be titillated with movies and youtube videos and the lives of other people as they appear on facebook. To live isn’t to travel and be well read, to know all about wine, to be cultured. To have adventures. To live isn’t to have fancy perfume, the right shoes, the best makeup, the least wrinkled skin for our age. To live isn’t to have the right job, the right car, the right house, the right amount of money in well-chosen investments. To live isn’t to ensure that our lives really mean something on our terms. To live is Christ. Full stop. We are crucified with him, but most of us do not look or live like crucified people. We look just the same as everyone else, not as though “we are always carrying around in our body the death of Jesus” (2 Cor. 4:10). I have been personally convicted deeply by this truth recently, so if you’re reading this and wondering who is this crazy girl and why is she ranting at me, just know I’m ranting at myself. As much as I love the Protestant reformation, and as much as I believe that we are saved by grace alone, sometimes I wish we had kept the Catholic understanding of the Eucharist, and maybe a few crucifixes rather than bare crosses. Not that we crucify ourselves in order to earn our salvation or enter into some morbid focus on death. No, we are crucified with him. We must not emphasize the crucified and forget the with Christ of Galatians 2:20. We don’t hop on some self-contrived cross to prove our worth as Christians. We just come to Jesus on his own terms, which means that we give up everything to follow him (Luke 14:33) and to be crucified with him so that he might live in us (Gal 2:20).
Oh, Karl Barth, who was a professor of Reformed theology, protestant par excellence, etc., had this painting hanging where he could see it as he read and wrote and worked (Grunewald Isenheim Altarpiece).