Big on Crosses

As chronicled in “Flawed Messengers” and other works, AnOldSinner once had a problem with those who called themselves Christian. This was partially due to experiences in a particularly conservative branch of Christianity as a child and young adult. The pastors with whom AnOldSinner became familiar did not always seem interested in bringing glory to God’s name.

Between those pastors and family experiences, it was easy to become extremely critical of Christianity.  In fact, there was a time when any questions or comments about Christianity or God would elicit a torrent of criticism concerning God and those who claimed to follow him. A year or two ago, a comment made by a young minister resurrected memories of those days.

Several members of a men’s ministry were discussing the idea of purchasing small crucifixes or simple crosses as gifts for new believers. When the minister became aware of the discussion, he glanced over and commented, “I’m not big on crosses. I’m big on the resurrection.”

The comment was made in an offhanded, throwaway manner. From his tone, body language and facial expression, one might have thought the comment was in reference to a proposed menu item for a church function. For instance, “I’m not big on veggies. I’m big on chicken fried steak.” It seemed he was not even thinking about what he was saying.

In a normal conversation, those who heard it might have shrugged it off and gone on. That was not the case in this instance. Please understand. This was not a group of casual Christians. The people in the group were all heavily involved in church. All had been involved in mission work or discipleship. Yet, the offhand comment had a visibly negative impact on them.

Originally, the thought behind this piece was to make a point about leadership and communication. Leaders at any level in an organization need to be aware that any remark they make may have an unintended effect on those around them. This would seem to be especially important in a church setting. Here, it was obvious some of the group felt they were being criticized or talked down to by the young minister. His remark essentially ended the conversation.

As sometimes happens, this piece languished in the work-in-progress folder for a time. Each time the file was opened to complete it, something interfered. The right words would simply not come to mind. It was a classic case of writer’s block, and as it turned out, there was a reason.

Over a year later, the idea the crucifixion was not that big a deal came up again. This time it was in a graduate level seminary course. The professor was discussing basic Christian beliefs, and one glaring omission was any mention of the crucifixion. As one might imagine, this resulted in a discussion after class.

The discussion was in some ways bizarre. A professor this writer and others respect highly took five minutes to explain that the crucifixion itself was not necessary for Jesus to complete His work. According to the professor, Jesus could have died in any horrible manner and still be the sin substitute for believers. The professor did agree that many believe the Old Testament can be interpreted to prophesy crucifixion, but crucifixion was not really necessary. The resurrection was the essential element.

This discussion was a relief in some ways. The young minister was not simply throwing out his own personal belief about something many believers feel is an essential part of Christianity. He was likely repeating the information he had been given at seminary.

The fact he did not seem to be aware of the way others were affected by his comments is a separate matter. The important question seems to be what could lead believers such as these to discount something that is so clearly important to many Christians. Unfortunately, it is not possible to answer that question definitively. Still, it is possible to propose a hypothesis that seems to hold water.

AnOldSinner believes this response to the cross is due to a concern over violating the Second Commandment. In fact, the professor mentioned above teaches a course on the Ten Commandments, and his lectures on icons and images made it clear he is very sensitive to the matter. Of course, he is not the only one concerned.

Throughout the modern history of the church, some Christians have expressed concerns over, if not outright contempt for, the use of religious symbols or icons by some within the Christian community. Certainly, the worship of a graven image is prohibited by the Second Commandment, and clearly the debate concerning what is a graven image has not ended. One must wonder though if discounting the suffering of Christ on the cross is the right way to deal with the issue of idol worship.

It is possible the professor is right. Perhaps Jesus could have died in some other horrible fashion for our sins. The fact is, He was crucified, and God allowed Him to be crucified. To AnOldSinner that makes the method of His death mean something. If God intended Him to be flogged to death, thrown into a pit of lions or killed in some other horrible fashion, that is what would have happened. Since it did not, there must be some significance to the manner in which He was killed. The fact some focus a bit too much on the method of His death in their worship, does not diminish his sacrifice or what it means to Christians.

AnOldSinner does not worship the cross. Yet, it is clearly a symbol of the sacrifice Jesus made on our behalf. If seeing a cross, holding a cross or simply remembering the cross helps a believer remember the price Jesus paid for our sins it is hard to imagine God taking offense.

© AnOldSinner 2017

About S. Eric Jackson

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