Winter started early last year. The solstice came at its usual time, but the events before the official beginning of the season seemed like an advent to disaster. In October a hurricane ripped across the East Coast, wiping out homes and businesses—and sweeping dozens of souls into eternity. In November a fire destroyed an Alliance church in Massachusetts. Intentionally set by a troubled young man, it left the congregation homeless—but not hopeless. And then came December. December was tough.

My college New Testament professor said that in a town the size of Bethlehem, the Slaughter of the Innocents probably involved no more than a dozen kids. Far fewer, he pointed out, than the death toll racked up by legalized abortion. And fewer than the 20 children and their teachers gunned down in school 11 days before last Christmas. The loss of innocent lives, no matter the scale, should shock us all. How we react to this tragedy as God’s children will profoundly affect how those who are watching us will see Him.

In his latest book, The Lamb’s Agenda, 2013 General Council speaker Samuel Rodriguez notes that life is like a cross, having vertical and horizontal planes. “Vertically, we stand connected to God, his kingdom, eternal life, spiritual truths, divine principles, and glory,” he writes. “Horizontally, to our left and to our right, we exist surrounded by and revealed through community, relationships, family, culture, and society” (emphasis added).

December was tough, but God’s people were revealed‐through the compassion parishioners showed to the arsonist’s family, who are astounded by the love the church has poured over them; through the swift muster of workers and supplies to the hungry and homeless in Sandy’s wake. And through the offer of a prayer, a shoulder and a listening ear to families, friends and neighbors who will never “just get over” an unfathomable act of evil.

The cross is inescapable. Even those who do not acknowledge God are not exempt from the vertical beams or the horizontal post. “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another,” Jesus said (John 13:35). How we live out the cross in love reveals who—and Whose—we are.

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