I was given a crucifix on a chain the same day I was baptized. The cross is a continual reminder of our Lord's sacrifice and humiliation and agony on our behalf at Calvary, and a silent witness to others of my faith in Jesus.
Lately, I have questioned the reasons for wearing it and the attendant implications. Am I experiencing a crisis of faith? Isn't the cross the place where Christ's ultimate victory was realized, His Kingdom established, and His redemptive mission completed? Isn't it the powerful symbol to millions of believers around the world of our joy and salvation, of God's infinite love and mercy? The answer to these questions is a qualified "not necessarily."
In J.I. Packer's magnificent book, "Knowing God," chapter four speaks of the Second Commandment - prohibition of idols in the form of anything in heaven above or the earth beneath or in the waters below, and that we shall not bow down to them or worship them.
Surely this does not apply to a representation of the very instrument by which we can bridge the gap between heaven and earth! Well, it might.
Packer reasons that God prohibited us from employing images of Him in order that we not be misled into conceiving of Him as something far less majestic and powerful and infinite than He actually is.
As finite creatures, any rendering of our hands or our minds will fall short of God's glory. By its very nature, any created image will diminish our regard for His divinity in every dimension to which that word can apply. Packer is saying that an image can never be that which it represents and will mislead us even if our intentions are correct.
Wait a minute, we're not trying to represent Almighty God the Father with our jewelry here, we are honoring His Son and Savior Jesus Christ and remembering His glorious sacrifice on the cross!
Lighten up, Mr. Packer! Many Christians would argue thus, and my tendency is to agree with them, but let's see where this trail goes.
Perhaps the danger is that we leave Jesus on that cross! Is that the end of the story? The other day Brian Borgman said, "Maybe we ought to wear little empty tombs around our necks" in his excellent series on Mark's Gospel.
Was Brian being facetious? Do we honor the fact that Jesus came down off that cross a lifeless corpse and three days later rose again, forever legitimizing His claim to be the Messiah?
Do we worship the pierced, rejected, and forsaken one hung on a tree? Do we understand the words of Deuteronomy 21:23, "because anyone who is hung on a tree is under God's curse," and thus fully appreciate that Jesus became a curse in order to be the propitiation for all of our sins?
Do we remember and attribute worth to the Jesus who was with God before the world began, the Word through whom all things were made, and about whom so many of the words of the Old Testament prophecy?
Do we submit ourselves to his authority as Lord and Savior? Do we honor Him with obedience? Do we remember Him as the Glorified Risen Lord of Revelation? Or do we tend to focus on Him more narrowly as our Redeemer, content to leave Him suspended in time on that cross wherein He secured our personal salvation?
Well, it's good to let other people know about our beliefs, and a cross somewhere on our person will do that and just might start a conversation about the Gospel which might lead someone to salvation.
Amen to that!
In my many years as a pagan I learned to spot people who were overly religious, and generally managed to maneuver around them with as little contact as possible, mainly because, like all agnostics or atheists, I didn't have the courage of my secular convictions, nor the energy to defend them.
It was possible, however, for me to be intrigued by people who possessed an inner peace, a quiet humble joy, and an unfailing kindness and gentleness of spirit.
I was attracted to people who demonstrated generosity without self-promotion and who seemed genuinely interested in me despite the fact that I was in no position to further their careers or support their causes or refer business to them.
People who didn't condemn me even though my lifestyle and beliefs were radically different from theirs got my attention.
Salt and Light have a way of doing that, and only our continual walk and deepening relationship with the living Lord will equip us for personal ministry and living testimony.
Perhaps we use symbols because we have become spiritually dry, and our light is dimming. Pray that we receive our Lord's energy and submit to His guidance and discipline, feed ourselves with Holy Scripture, and enthusiastically share our joy with others ... And bring Jesus off that cross and into our hearts every day of our lives.
Roger Kirkland is with Silver Hills Church, at 1066 Mallory Way. Call 885-2812.