The Paradoxical Love of the Cross -- By: Donald G. Bloesch

Journal: Reformation and Revival
Volume: RAR 06:4 (Fall 1997)
Article: The Paradoxical Love of the Cross
Author: Donald G. Bloesch


The Paradoxical Love of the Cross

Donald G. Bloesch

The most significant revelation of God’s grace and God’s love ever given to mankind is the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. The divine mystery, revealed openly in the cross of Christ, contains heights we cannot scale and depths we cannot plumb. It is a truly amazing paradox!

Now, I choose the word “paradox” intentionally. By paradox I have in mind a reality or event that encompasses elements that appear to be contradictory. It is not a logical riddle but the breaking in of a new horizon of meaning that cannot be fully assimilated by the human intellect. When I speak of the cross as the revelation of God’s paradoxical love, I mean the cross not simply as an event in past history but as an abiding reality that impinges upon human life in every age. Yet it always appears as something unexpected and out of the ordinary.

The Mystery of Agape

When I use the term “love” in this meditation I will be referring mainly to agape—the primary word for love in the Greek New Testament. Agape is a unique kind of love, a love that the natural person simply does not know. It is unconditional love—not dependent on the worth of the one who is loved. It is gratuitous love—given to the undeserving. In this sense it is close to the meaning of grace. It is a love that “does not seek its own,” as Paul describes it (cf. 1 Cor. 13:5, KJV). It does not seek its own perfection or fulfillment. It is self-sacrificing, not self-regarding. It finds its fulfillment in the sacrifice of itself, in letting go of the self in order that others might live. It is the kind of love that creates value in the one that is loved, rather than the love that finds value.

Martin Luther, who rediscovered the meaning of agape—its depth and breadth as seen in the New Testament—astutely observed: “Sinners are beautiful because they are loved. They are not loved because they are beautiful.”1 This

admirably sums up the essence of agape as the power of creative transformation.

This unique love, found perfectly in God, is often contrasted with another kind of love, eros. Eros is the spiritual love that the Greek philosophers and poets often celebrated. It is the love that seeks unity with the highest and aspires to fulfillment and perfection in union with God. This type of love has made a significant impact on Christian theology through the ages. It has been very important in the development of Christian mysticism.

I confess that I have a kind of...

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