Friday, March 29, 2024

The Cross and the Cost: Reflecting on Sacrifice and Society

In the letter to the Philippians, Paul writes, "He humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross. Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name" (Philippians 2:8-9 NABRE). This passage speaks to the profound humility and obedience of Jesus, who accepted a cruel and ignominious death to fulfill his mission. But beyond whatever theological significance it might hold, this event also offers a lens through which we can examine the nature of sacrifice and the value of individual lives.

There's a saying, often misattributed to Josef Stalin, that encapsulates a troubling aspect of human psychology: "The death of one person is a tragedy. The death of millions is a statistic." This phrase highlights our tendency to connect more deeply with individual stories of suffering than with large-scale tragedies. Nonprofits have learned to leverage this by focusing on personal narratives to illustrate the impact of their work, rather than presenting abstract statistics.

Crucifixion, a punishment employed by the Roman Empire, provides a stark historical example of this concept. Though thousands were subjected to this brutal form of execution, it is the crucifixion of Jesus that has been etched into collective memory. His death is not just a singular tragedy but a symbol of every unjust death wielded by the powers that be throughout history. Jesus' crucifixion exposed the violence underpinning the Pax Romana, challenging us to scrutinize the foundations of our own society.

Today, we are called to question the sacrifices demanded by our societal structures. Every soldier's death, every execution, every loss of life in the name of maintaining order or advancing a cause, deserves scrutiny. Are these the values we wish to uphold? Are these the means by which we wish to govern and be governed?

The cross of Jesus stands as a reminder of the cost of challenging the status quo and the power structures of the day. It beckons us to reflect on the value of each human life and to consider the true nature of sacrifice. In doing so, we honor not only the memory of those who have suffered but also the potential for a more just and compassionate society.