Rev Julian Mann: The Cross reminds us Christianity is about God’s love

Standing in front of the central symbol of Christianity at a Q&A for invited constituents in a Sheffield church last week, former Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg gave an eloquent defence of freedom of thought and speech.

It was the day of the Islamist atrocity in Stockholm and Mr Clegg was asked about the danger of non-violent Christian counter-cultural views being lumped in with violent religious extremism.

With the Cross behind him, the Sheffield Hallam MP argued passionately that the State cannot suppress ideas in people’s minds and that the most effective way in the long term to counter destructive ideologies is through consistent refutation in an open society.

On this Good Friday, it is worth reflecting on Islam’s negative attitude towards the central saving fact of the Christian faith. The Koran asserts: ‘They denied the truth and uttered a monstrous falsehood against Mary. They declared: “We have put to death the Messiah Jesus the son of Mary, the apostle of Allah.” They did not kill him, nor did they crucify him, but they thought they did’ (Surah 4.157, trans. 1956 by N.J. Dawood, Penguin).

Though it is unclear here quite who the ‘they’ are - Jews or Jewish converts to Christianity? - the denial of the Cross is clear. The crucifixion of Jesus did not happen according to the Koran. It was an optical illusion. Jesus was lifted up into the presence of Allah without being crucified, the implication being that someone else was crucified who was mistaken for Jesus.

This denial of the Cross is at the heart of the difference between Christianity and Islam. It is why Islam is about power whereas Christianity is about love.

Certainly, some Christians have committed violence in the name of their faith but in doing so they were acting against its nature. The Apostle Paul, whom Christ converted from a violent religious extremist into a loving proclaimer of the Cross of Christ, expressed the right Christian attitude in the New Testament: ‘The life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me’ (Galatians 2v20 - Authorised Version).

Because they deny the Cross, Muslims believe in salvation by works with some of them seeing killing people in the name of Allah as a good work that can earn them salvation. Christians by contrast are commanded in the New Testament to believe in salvation by faith in God’s Incarnate Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, who achieved redemption for mankind by his sacrificial death on the Cross.

The Church of England’s Book of Common Prayer describes the ground of human salvation beautifully in its Order for Holy Communion. It declares that Jesus Christ made on the Cross ‘a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation and satisfaction, for the sins of the whole world; and did institute, and in his holy Gospel command us to continue, a perpetual memory of that his precious death, until his coming again.’

Seeing him standing in front of the Cross, one was inclined to hope that Mr Clegg might one day grasp the link between the ordered liberty he passionately believes in and the symbol of divine love behind him.

(Image: George Bannister)

Julian Mann

  • Shazza

    What a joke, Nick Clegg the ultra liberal, defending freedom of speech.

    It is the liberals who have done the utmost damage to freedom of speech as is perfectly illustrated by the state of permissible debate now in our universities

    Liberal has lost all of its original meaning – it now stands for anti democratic, authoritarianism, totalitarian rule and has more in common now with islam than western freedom loving, Judeo Christian culture.

    For a prime example of this, just look at how the ‘liberals’ aka Democrats in America have behaved after their defeat to Donald Trump.

    • Phil R

      Well liberal Clegg….

      Do you support allowing Bed & Breakfast Owners to ‘opt out’ from renting homosexual couples a room? Well, no. Do you support allowing Catholic Adoption agencies to ‘opt out’ of placing children in homosexual families? Well, no.

      Well Clegg it seems you have given yourself the authority to determine the ‘significance’ of any moral conflict. If it meets some arbitrary criteria established by you, then you will allow an exemption……or you will not.

      But as a good liberal it will always be…….as YOU see fit.

    • Tethys

      Look how Republicans behaved ON THE WAY to their 28% vote ‘victory’

      • Shazza

        How exactly did they behave?

  • Tricia

    Unfortunately Nick Clegg is an advocate for ever more “progress” away from Judeo Christian values. He is a “feminist”, supporter of same sex marriage, an opponent of Christianity and an apologist for Islam. We must pray that the veil will be removed from his eyes and he will see the truth of Christ at this most important of Christian festivals.

    • Phil R

      “Unfortunately Nick Clegg is an advocate for ever more “progress” away from Judeo Christian values”

      The pendulum will swing back at some point and the further they push it the harder it will swing back.

      All that is to be determined is how much force and by who’s hand.

      (It won’t be a Christian hand)

  • mollysdad

    This article is superficial when it says “Islam is about power whereas Christianity is about love.”

    Jesus kept the two great commandments to love God and to love neighbour by going to the Cross, but He did it specifically in this way.

    You love God by loving His Name (YHWH). In putting Mary and John together as mother and son, Jesus ensured that Mary would continue to serve as a home for His Father’s Name. All the men who had responsibility for her had theophoric names: Joachim her father; Joseph, Jesus and John.

    You love your neighbour by guarding the life of the innocent. Mary obtained a son with the help of the LORD. Thus, John was established as the new Cain, but this time he delivered life to his brothers, not death.

    I wouldn’t say that the use of violence in the name of Christianity is necessarily against its nature. As long as you are serving the State as a soldier, you lawfully bear arms, and the State lawfully takes the lives of evildoers and lawbreakers, including jihadists by reason of sedition, murder, idolatry and blasphemy.

  • Under-the-weather

    I don’t think the statement is actually a denial of the cross, in fact as reiterated it says “nor did they crucify him, but they thought they did”.
    One could argue that this statement means someone else was crucified and died instead.
    The other option (and more likely given the evidence of a ‘crucified’ Jesus living in Asia afterwards), is that he actually lived through it, and ‘resurrected’ or recovered to full life, maybe after a short coma. The inaccuracy then comes not from Jesus, but ‘they’ being the proponents of Christianity after the event.

    • Phil R

      They knew what Jesus claimed for himself. Those in authority wanted him dead. Are you telling us that these Roman soldiers, well used to seeing death would pronounce Jesus dead when there was any possiblity that it was not true?

      There were no second chances in those days. The soldiers knew that if they got it wrong they would also be flogged in front of the Legion before being killed, probably slowly.

      • Under-the-weather

        Are you telling us that ‘a’ sympathetic Roman soldier would have known what a coma was?

        • Phil R

          They would certainly know if someone was dead or alive.

          Their lives depended upon getting this right.

          • Under-the-weather

            ..and someone who thought that was really the son of god, with a credible history of healing would of course have automatically put their own safety first, and ignored all of it.

          • Phil R

            The Romans sent a whole Cohort (300 to 600 men) to arrest Jesus. After he was identifed by Judas’ kiss he was asked if he was the Son of Man.

            Jesus replied, “I am” at once, the whole Cohort were knocked to the ground.

            300 to 600 Roman soldiers with two words.

            They are going to make sure that he was dead…..

          • Under-the-weather

            Unless you were there you’re still guessing

          • Phil R

            And you are not?

            I at least have reportage.

          • Under-the-weather

            “Reportage” and so do I Asia where there’s a tomb belonging to a non Moslem who was crucified, and has a reputation as a healer. Also my questioning is based on the reality of life and not an entire ‘miracle’.

          • Tricia

            You do not have 2000 years of evidence of people having their individual encounters with Christ. The actions of the Apostles do not make sense without the resurrection – they were frightened men in hiding and at Pentecost began their amazing ministry – most of them were willing to die for this. They were sure of the resurrection. Jesus said “I am the resurrection and the life”. It is a central tenet of the faith.

          • Under-the-weather

            “2000 years of evidence of people having their individual encounters with Christ”
            That would still apply if Jesus eventually led a natural life and normal death.

          • Phil R

            Read Luke 1

            That is reportage.

          • CRSM

            But Jesus was taken down from the cross far earlier than normal for Crucifixion.

          • Phil R

            They didn’t normally flog them half dead first!

          • Under-the-weather

            He did, and there are records of people who survive crucifixion. There was a TV program recently in which people with extraordinary physical abilities were interviewed. One was able to slow his circulation down to a level in which he can ‘alkinize’ his blood stream, just from thought or an ‘intention’. This can be applied to slowing circulation to reduce blood loss, and also pain control. It’s being investigated in a ‘water into wine experiment in the US, to see how ‘independent’ that thinking has to be. (E.g the reaction to prayer)


          • Tricia

            He died at His appointed time, not theirs. “It is finished” he said. The Roman soldiers pierced his side with a spear to check he was dead.

          • Elizabeth Smith

            Only the British were better executioners than the Romans.

  • Phil R

    “the State cannot suppress ideas in people’s minds”

    It tends to have the opposite effect

    “that the most effective way in the long term to counter destructive ideologies is through consistent refutation in an open society”

    What? Every action of Governments for the last 25 years has passed laws to ensure the opposite.

    That is, close down debate and punnish “wrong” speech that even makes quoting the Bible (or refusing to bake a cake) a crime. Yes I know the Government wants to define and moderate ‘unthinking interpretations of the Bible.’ However, we see time and time again that such a construction is employed to suggest that the advocate’s (Government – Athiest) position is the ‘thinking interpretation.’ Surely the ‘thinker’ must be more correct than the ‘non-thinker.’

    The Government/ athiests have invented a clever way to win all arguments by definition and to punnish whoever they want without any consistency across religions.

  • John Thomas

    “the State cannot suppress ideas in people’s minds” – what about the idea that we must at ALL costs get free of the EU? Would Mr. Clegg have objection to the State suppressing that idea?

  • Dominic Stockford

    Cleggy being saved? ‘That’ll be a matter for the Holy Spirit’.

  • Phil R

    I am betting that economic and political decline will bring about a resurgence of paganism – a resurgence that will be driven by the immediate need to confront questions of meaning and purpose in the face of poverty, violence, and suffering. It will be false meaning and false purpose, but people will be satisfied with lies if only they can have hope.

    • More likely to bring a resurgence of Christianity, the religion of the oppressed and downtrodden (not to mention women). That’s why it spread so far and so fast in the first place, without the use of the sword. The hope that even if you can’t make this world better, the next will be. Although I’ll grants that the hierarchs in the churches will impede that. Paganism then and now served the state, why else was Caesar a god.

  • David

    Clegg is a total hypocrite !
    He poses as a “liberal”, whilst promoting laws that are anything but liberal, as they are designed to close down free speech and make some favoured minorities more equal than all else. He poses as a “democrat”, but endlessly attacks the largest democratic referendum that this country has ever seen.
    The politicians of today say one thing and do the exact opposite, and Clegg is a classic example of such hypocrisy and self-delusion.
    Whether that atheist Clegg ever sees any link between God and anything worthwhile is a matter that rests with The Spirit.

  • The_Mocking_Turtle

    Distorted religion is often used as a means to claim a dispensation, often from the deity, to do awful things that are essentially political. Crusades. Jihads. Slavery. Murder of staff at clinics that terminate pregnancies at the request of patients. You name it. Life should NOT be organised based on self-contradictory scripture written thousands of years ago and continually re-interpreted by individuals to help advance their own agenda.

    The truth is that Christ is not the only way to God; the Jews are not God’s chosen people; Mohammed is not the best and last prophet of the deity and followers of the three dominant monotheistic religions are absolutely and definitively NOT special and no better one from the other.

    Religion is divisive.

    Without religion good people would do good things and bad people would do bad things without conceit, dishonesty, delusion and vanity, pretending that their actions were spiritually inspired and divinely sanctioned by self-selected prophets, priests or scriptures.