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The war in Iraq is over. It took only 28 days for Coalition Forces to completely dismantle the regime of Saddam Hussein. And while Hussein and a large number of his henchmen are still at large, the only opposition that remains is a scattering of ill equipped, rag-tag bands of guerilla forces.
After over 30 years of oppression, the Iraqi people have become free. After 30 years of people missing in the middle of the night, and stories of torture and mass killings, the Iraqi people are now liberated.
The dream is that Iraq will rise from the ashes of this war to take an important place on the world stage as a place where democratic principles are embraced, and a place where the government serves the needs of its people regardless of personal, societal and religious differences.
But the greatest fear is that Iraq will now only enter into a new era of oppression, a different kind of injustice. The fear is that those who have been oppressed will become the oppressor, that rival tribes will retaliate for years of abuse, or that Iraq will transform to a heavy-handed Islamic state, that they would trade their freedom for another kind of oppression.
We have like the Iraqi’s been set free from years of oppression. Through the cross of Christ we are now free. Galatians 5:24 says, “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there.” That statement is at the heart of Paul’s contention that starts the chapter, “Christ has really set us free.”
The battle was not fought by 100s of thousands of Coalition Forces, but by one lonely man on a lonely cross. It did not take 28 days to end the war, but the battle was decided in a matter of a few short hours. Scrimmages continue to be waged on a daily basis by guerilla forces that try to inflict our souls , but the outcome has been decided. We are free.
The times in which we live are a paradox. We are caught at the crux of the independent, individualistic spirit that doesn’t need anyone, and a cry for community. On one side, we have, as Newsweek magazine indicted the evangelical community for “Not a call to servanthood, but an upbeat call of what God can do for you.”
On the other side, Celia Copplestone, a character in a play by T.S. Eliot, called the Cocktail Party, when she is in the midst of all of these people who are supposedly her friends from society, yet she makes the observation that she has never been lonelier. Have you ever heard that about Sunday mornings? Maybe you have even felt it yourself.
When we encounter, the “Cross of Christ” our natural inclination is to think in term of “Jesus and me”. The emphasis is on the individual offering and benefits of salvation. It is a private, personal experience. It is the vertical beam of the cross that reconnects me in a loving relationship with a gracious God.
But nothing could be further from the truth. Yes, Jesus does save us individually, but it is not individualistic. And though it may be personal, it is not private.
God freed us to live in community. His design from the very beginning of the church was that the church would exhibit the kind of self-sacrificing love that he exhibited on the cross. It is the horizontal beam. But the realization of that beam can only be realized and exhausted in community.
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