In our second reading in worship yesterday, we read Paul’s challenging attack on those who he says

live as enemies of the cross of Christ. (Philippians 3:8)

It sounds heinous. What terrible evil must be involved to cause a group of people to be identified as those who “live as enemies of the cross of Christ”? Are these “enemies of the cross of Christ” dabbling is some dark satanic arts? Are they living violent immoral lives? Are they people who are determined to destroy the witness of Christ in the world?

The rest of the “Letter to the Philippians” does not give a lot of help in identifying exactly who these “enemies of the cross of Christ” might be.

It is an interesting expression. Paul does not speak of enemies of the church, or enemies of his teaching . He does not even, as you might expect of a man writing from prison, speak of my enemies. He is concerned about people who are “enemies of the cross of Christ.”

It is helpful in coming to grips with this expression to think about the cross. The “cross of Christ” is the sign of surrender. In order to go to the cross, Jesus had to pass through Gethsemane where he wrestled against what he knew was God’s will until finally he came to a place of complete submission.

‘Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done.’ (Luke 22:42)

The cross is the place where I abandon my determination to impose my will on the world. At the “cross of Christ” I come to the end of self-will; I put down my need to have the world go the way I believe it should go. I give up my need to be seen to be right, to impose my vision of reality on the rest of the world. I let go of my desire to be powerful. The “cross of Christ” is the end of my need to win.

So, to be an “enemy of the cross of Christ” is to refuse to surrender, to resist letting go. I am living as an “enemy of the cross of Christ” when I attempt to get the world to conform to my version of reality, when I insist that everyone see things as I see them. When I brace against life, I am living as an “enemy of the cross of Christ”.

When I use the force of my personality to enforce my will, I am an “enemy of the cross of Christ.” When I am overbearing, unreasonable, and unwilling to take a deep breath and step back from my position, I have adopted the attitude of an “enemy of the cross of Christ.”

For “enemies of the cross of Christ” life is a never-ending battle. There are always winners and losers and the only place they want to be is on the winning side.

I know what it feels like in my body when I am living as “an enemy of the cross of Christ.” My back tenses. My shoulders tighten. My voice becomes clipped; I speak in a violent torrent of words. I do not listen.  When the other person is speaking my mind is racing hunting for the perfect argument with which to finally slay my opponent.

When I live as an “enemy of the cross of Christ” I contribute to the destruction of human community. I banish gentleness. There is little room for openness, flexibility, or freedom around “enemies of the cross of Christ.”

Living as an “enemy of the cross of Christ” is tiring. I imagine it shortens my lifespan every time I choose to live as an “enemy of the cross of Christ.”

When I finally give up being an “enemy of the cross of Christ” there is no more winning and losing. All standards of measurement are discarded.

This insight is beautifully expressed by the 12c. mystic poet Kabir:

Look
what happens to the scale
when love
holds it.

It
stops
working.

When I give up being an “enemy of the cross of Christ” I come to the end of measuring, weighing, and calculating. There is no longer any battle to win. I simply open to the flow of life. I find my way in tune with the wind of the Spirit. I choose to align myself with the soft life-giving movement of God.

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