The Cross means different things to different people.
To many believers (I’d say most if I was a betting man), it is a sign of God’s grace. To some unbelievers, it is a sign of a marriage between the occult and political power. To many marginalized people, it is a sign of oppression.
I can’t help but feel as though a lot of (what I would argue are) the misconceptions about the cross are our fault. When I say “our,” I mean the people who proudly claim the Cross as a symbol of our faith in Jesus Christ. I’m not pointing any fingers. I have two crosses tattooed on my body right now. But the fact of the matter is that in a great deal of the world – and I would suggest, especially here in America – the cross comes with a level of privilege.
I imagine that claim solicits a great deal of disagreement from people who call themselves believers like I do. There are those of us who sincerely believe that our “religious freedoms” are under attack. I recognize that, as the descendent of people whose idea of “freedom” was quite a bit different from that of the people who had the privilege of defining freedom (in the USA), I may be biased in saying this, but I don’t believe that. Here’s the thing though: even if our “religious freedoms” are indeed under attack, SO WHAT?!
There are an extremely uncomfortable, unacceptable amount of instances throughout history where the Cross we claim proudly was used to bludgeon the freedoms of other people that our very Bible tells us were made in the image of God. It happened during the crusades. It happened during colonialism. It happened throughout slavery. It happened during Reconstruction. For crying out loud, the Ku Klux Klan literally has a cross in its emblem and flag, and that organization is BEYOND whack. So if, by some chance, believers like me are losing “religious freedoms,” it might have something to do with the fact that we haven’t shown ourselves to be the most responsible stewards of said freedom.
And IF we are losing those freedoms, I say GOOD. Because many of us have had the benefit of our faith growing in one of the most protective environments in the history of the world. Right now, as I type this message, there are believers around the world studying pages ripped out of their Bibles in secret because it is quite literally against the law to read the Bible where they live. Jesus even warned us! (Matthew 10:22, Mark 13:13, John 16:33, and a whole bunch of other places) It’s not supposed to be easy!
So maybe a little bit of persecution is what we need to reclaim the actual Cross. Not the cool t-shirt graphics and bumper stickers and tattoos. But the burden. The thing that Jesus was forced to carry on His shoulders as people beat and mocked Him. The thing that He was nailed to before He drew His last breath and gave up His Spirit. The thing He endured because of your sin and my sin and the sins of the whole world.
Maybe instead of whining about how people feel about our crosses, we should remember what that Cross means. It does not mean that we have to join a political party. It does not mean that God is, all of a sudden, unbothered by my sins. It sure as sunshine does not mean that we are morally superior to anyone else. It means that we’ve found something worth living for and dying for at the same time. And that ought to change us. We ought to move and speak a little differently than we did before, and than we do right now.
Historically speaking, most people would call what I’m arguing for a “reformation” of sorts. But presently speaking, I’m asking for a rebellion. Not a “stars and bars” or “states rights” type rebellion. I think we need a rebellion for the old, rugged Cross that reminds us that all of the power belongs to the One who died for the very sins we commit today under the protection of that same Cross.
I think the world needs the Cross. But I believe that we believers must do the work of reclaiming it from those who’ve weaponized it against the world. Let’s take it back.
You can find part 2 of “Reclaiming the Cross” here.