We are Christians of various backgrounds and traditions. We are bound by a common confession in God who is one and triune, and who has loved us so much that in Christ God has destroyed death and made possible the redemption of this world. Through the Spirit which has been given to us, we have the courage to profess this love to all men and women.
Today is a date special to many Christians. It honors the Cross, which is the sign by which Christ conquered death, defeated sin, and challenged the powers of this world. This sign of powerlessness was so powerful that it has transformed the world.
Even the things we hold dear were started by people of faith, especially those who affirmed faith in the Cross of Christ: democracy, freedom, the rule of law. The achievements of our civilization were achievements of those who also found comfort, peace, and above all, freedom in that redeeming Cross.
In our time, however, this whole story is being challenged by those who believe that our nation should, in its public life, not be founded on any form of religious belief. They further assert that the Christian faith, whatever its manifestations, has been harmful to us as a nation. To suggest that it should be disregarded because of the tragic legacies of colonialism neglects the way by which the Cross of Christ has so transformed our nation that we are now witnessing to it even in nations where Christianity seems to be in decline.
We confess that we have not been truly faithful to this Cross of Christ. We have neglected its power to transform our nation and thus surrendered our future to the forces which threaten to undermine faith in God.
This is the same Cross which Paul the Apostle spoke about more than two millennia ago, when he wrote to the believers in Corinth:
“Jews look for signs but Greeks look for wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling-block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.
Consider your own call, brothers and sisters: not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, so that no one might boast in the presence of God. He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption, in order that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.’” (1 Cor 1:23-31)
These are words of hope for our struggling nation. Our hope is not in renouncing God as the center of our lives and our world. Our hope is in God, who loves us so much that we cannot help but return this love.
Regardless of where we disagree on the little things, we hold fast to this common confession.
Against those who say that God has no place in public life, we say that God is ultimately the Lord of all, even our politics.
Against those who say that faith ought to have no role in how our economy and our society works, we say that Christ redeemed even our economic and social structures.
Against those who say that we must alone rely upon science and technology without the guiding hand of faith-based ethics, we affirm that by the Cross, all our human endeavors will be judged.
But most of all, we affirm that all is not lost.
We appeal to Filipinos of faith, especially in God and in Jesus Christ, whether here in the country or abroad, to work for a society where there is space for the spiritual.
We appeal to our brothers and sisters who do not share our faith to join us in this endeavor, for this will only make possible the freedom of belief that you seek.
We appeal to our churches to set aside animosity and hatred and to work together to create a new and transformed society shaped by the Cross of Christ, where all are truly equal, truly free, and truly human.
Finally, we appeal to those who have lost faith in Christ and in God. We pray that you will discover once again how God has loved you first and that you will find that only in Christ can you truly think free.
May God’s Name be glorified. May the Cross of Christ triumph in our nation and in the world.
14 September 2011 Holy Cross Day
Renato Paolo V. Aguila writer/researcher, Philippine Bible Society
Romel Bagares Elder, Christian Reformed Church in the Philippines
Benjamin Vallejo Jr.
Associate Professor, UP Diliman
Rei Lemuel Crizaldo Pastor, Norzagaray Christian Church