His Love and My Need

I’ve been hearing so much this season about the love God showed at the cross.

Love sent His Son. 

Love submitted to the pain.

Love sacrificed Himself.

Just receive all this love. 


My concern is that focusing only on His love removes the true power of the cross. 

The point of the cross is not how much God loves us (and I am in no way denying the truth that He DOES love us.  But the power of the cross is in recognizing how much He loved us when we did not deserve it, and in reality when we did not even want His love. 

We undo the power of the cross by denying our helplessness.

Imagine this scenario:

A boy is skating on a frozen lake and falls through the ice. 

His father sees it and of course runs to rescue him. Without regard for himself he dives through the ice, finds the lifeless body of his son, pulls him to shore and revives his body by performing mouth to mouth – pushing his breath into unresponsive lungs until the boy coughs back to life. Of course, we can understand the love the father has for his boy and can celebrate this display of unselfish love. 

But imagine this boy is an orphan and that it was not really his father who rescues him, but a stranger who happened to see his need. Not just any stranger, but the neighbor whose home the boy had robbed and vandalized the night before. And not just the night before, but for every night in the last year. The neighbor the boy curses at every time he sees him walking down the street. This is the one whose breath brings that lifeless body back to life.

Now imagine that the boy coughs and comes back to life, looks at the stranger and says, “Wow, thank you so much for saving me, you are such a loving person. But really I was ok – I was just about to get out myself.” 

Then the boy goes back to cursing, robbing and vandalizing the neighbor’s home that night again. 

Ridiculous, right? Of course he needed to be rescued we all see that – there is no way he would have started breathing again and fought his own way out the ice without the arms of the neighbor pulling him to shore and pushing his own breath into the boy’s lifeless body. He was dead and trapped.  How arrogant to open his eyes and say, “Thanks that was nice, but I was really ok.” 

But this is what we do over and over again when we look at the cross and only think of God’s love. 

The power of the cross only comes when we recognize our need. 

We are that dead, arrogant, destructive, hateful boy, helpless and without life or any possibility of saving ourselves trapped under the ice.

We hate God and have displayed it in a multitude of ways: We have robbed Him of the glory that belongs to Him as God and Creator. We have vandalized His creation by taking what He has made to bring glory to and worship to Himself, (which I believe is the highest form of life we can experience by the way, but that is a different essay) and have used or destroyed what is His as we see fit to please and worship ourselves. This is the sin that is our death, the ice we are helplessly trapped under. And we stay here daily thinking we are just fine on our own. 

The power of the cross only comes when we recognize our need. 

Now imagine that boy coughs to life, looks at the stranger and says – why did you save me? All I have ever done is hate and curse and rob and vandalize you? 

Imagine the boy remembering all the neighbor’s things he has stolen, broken, cursed, destroyed, while looking at the neighbor who is now shivering with frostbite from his time under the ice. Imagine all he sees is the neighbor’s eyes looking at him with love and concern, and hears, 

“Because I have loved you from before the foundation of the world. Will you join me in my home for dinner, tonight, and forever? I want to be your father.” 

If we were watching this as a movie, what response do we want to see from the boy?

We want to see his hard heart broken, we want him to apologize for every hurtful thing he has done to the neighbor, we want him to run into his loving embrace with tears of joy for the depth of love he has been shown. 

Do we want him to feel bad about what he has done? Yes. That is only right. But only long enough to understand the depth of love he has just received. 

But more than just feeling bad, we want him to feel genuine gratitude. We want to see his life turned around, leaving the life of hate and destruction and joining his benefactor – now his father – in displaying this same kind of love to those around him. 

This is the power of the cross.

When we stand at the foot of the cross, consider the mangled tortured body of the Lord of Creation hanging there and say, “Thank you for loving me.” then choose to go living life on our own terms we have completely denied any power the cross offers us for life, now and in the future. 

We are saying – “Thank you for your love, you really did do a big thing, and that was nice. I appreciate your love, but really, I was ok and I think I’ll keep managing things on my own.” We remain trapped and helpless.

Friends – don’t deny the power of the cross. It’s not in the hideousness of the torture Jesus endured. While we can take great comfort in knowing that He understands the depths of our pain and suffering in this life, the cross really does show us the hideousness of our own condition, our own sin. 

Freedom comes from accepting His love – not as a nice thought – but as the ultimate rescue we need because of our helpless condition. 

This is the power of the cross.