Ever wonder why a major world religion would have an ancient torture device as its identifying symbol?
Doesn’t that seem a little morbid?
At it’s core, Christianity is a cross. I know that you’re probably saying to yourself, “Yeah, yeah… Jesus died for my sins. I get it.”
But that’s not it.
It’s through the cross that God’s character is demonstrated. Among a pantheon of religions where gods compete for who is stronger, mightier, and more controlling, Jesus reveals a God who finds strength in vulnerability. A God who doesn’t rely on brute force to defeat evil, but chooses sacrifice.
Christ holds the cross up to a planet full of power-hungry, egocentric humans and says, “This is who God is. Everything you believe about strength, power, and dominance is a lie. If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”
The cross is an example laid out before us. It’s an invitation. The call is not to crucify yourself; that’s impossible. After you’ve nailed yourself in place, you always end up with one free hand.
What Jesus asks is infinitely harder. He wants you to carry your cross into your relationships, even when it means others will crucify you on it. You see, that’s how a cross works. Someone else has to put you on it.
In a world that longs for power, control, security, and invulnerability, Jesus encourages us to follow his example:
To understand instead of demanding to be understood.
To listen instead of demanding to be heard.
To give instead of demanding to receive.
To serve instead of demanding to be served.
The cross puts those in power on notice. How do you subject a people who are not afraid to suffer? How do you control people who are not afraid to lay down their lives for others? The cross elevates the powerless and amplifies the voices of the voiceless.
But that only works when Christians understand why they carry a cross. It isn’t a bludgeon, and it isn’t a tool used to crucify others. It’s a symbol of a willingness to follow God’s example and make one’s self the world’s servant.
Unfortunately, Constantine adopted Christianity as a state religion early on. He affixed the cross to Roman shields, and called out “In hoc signo vinces!” (“In this sign you will conquer!”) And we’ve been crucifying others in Christ’s name ever since.
And still Jesus calls us to take up our cross and follow him. But the cross is a symbol of suffering not victory. In order to follow Jesus, we choose to drink the cup of suffering today to enjoy the lamb’s victory celebration tomorrow.
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