Written By Ryan Walters
“But God is so rich in mercy, and He loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, He gave us life when He raised Christ from the dead.”
It’s been a while since I have gotten around to writing a blog but I certainly can’t say I’ve lost any of my “fire” and passion to do so. I have a multitude of subjects and topics I am rather enthusiastic about addressing in the next few weeks. I hope in the meantime, you all enjoyed the posts by guest bloggers Dan Spahn and Jodel Wright; I know they were quite a blessing to me as I hope they were to you.
The primary purpose of this current blog is to emphasize the significance of what took place at the cross 2013 years ago and to turn people away from downplaying the meaning and implication of the cross. Too often do people “wear the cross” (or even the Bible!) like it’s just a symbol or as a mere image that just seems to be somewhat popular. My fear is that believers and non-believers alike are utilizing the cross in a very light, fluffy manner. But the cross is far from a ‘fluffy’ symbol or image. There is so much more ‘meat’ to the cross that perhaps our culture is blindsided to.
Now there are many methods one could go about wearing the cross as I mentioned before. We’re a pretty creative generation of people so I am sure anybody could come up with a myriad of ways of displaying the cross. Two ways that come to my mind and that I have had the most familiarity with is jewelry and tattoos. How often do you walk by a male or female wearing a cross necklace? Likewise, how often do you walk by a male or female with a tattoo of a cross or even a Bible verse?
(My disclaimer here of course, before I continue, is that I don’t personally know most of the people I witness ‘wearing the cross’ this particular way. Only God can judge the heart. My point is that noticing this trend just makes me curious and questionable to the motives of the heart and how seriously or not seriously we’re dealing with the most extreme, powerful and meaningful event of all mankind.)
As someone who attended a Christian college, I saw peers with tattoos of the cross and Bible verses ALL THE TIME. When I am at the public gym now-a-days, I still see the same thing. Both environments which I presume have a share of believers and non-believers, seem to shed light on the cross being used as a symbol. And you could be either in church, a local restaurant, grocery store or a casino and observe a number of people wearing a cross necklace or other jewelry like it.
You could make a number of assumptions or accusations (99.9% of which would definitely be false or inaccurate) against people who wear the cross. Or you could get to know someone individually and build a friendship and begin to explore that person’s personal view of the cross. From there, you could start to put together reasoning as to whether he or she wears the cross as a symbol or lives by the cross as a lifestyle.
While exploring, you may find someone wears the cross because their parents or family they originated from are religious in one way or another. Perhaps, a person’s reasoning would be a dedication to a family member or friend who passed away. Maybe somebody wears a cross to show it’s everything they are not but wish to be. And possibly a person ‘wears the cross’ because they just think it “looks cool” and it’s popular (I really hope this last one wouldn’t be the reason).
As someone who has the ‘fish bumper sticker’, wears jewelry pertaining to the cross, carries around an ‘I Love Jesus’ lanyard for my keys, and is ‘inked up’ with three of my favorite Bible verses and a drawing from an instance when God spoke to me, I certainly do not want to sound like the hypocrite here. My reasoning for ‘wearing the cross’ in these ways is because I am unashamed of the Gospel and my Lord and my desire is for God and His love to be exemplified through me. I strive (key word: strive. I fall short more times than I can count each day) to be a witness for Christ by my actions, words and attitudes more than anything else. And my goal is for my actions, words and attitudes to reflect the condition of my heart which has been surrendered to God in hopes He would take it and transform it. However, though I strongly believe it is the INTERNAL that matters most, I also believe God can use external visuals (bumper stickers, tattoos, apparel, clothing, accessories, jewelry, etc) to draw others close to Him.
Are these visuals necessary? No. All God needs is a surrendered and humbled heart to do His work. Are these visuals a sin though? Not unless, 1. We belittle God’s power by falsely thinking He can’t use us unless we wear the cross outwardly or 2. We allow these visuals to become idols.
Before I go into the importance of the cross as a lifestyle and not being used a mere symbol, I would like to share a short story which I believe contributed to me writing this particular blog. While I was attending a Christian college, there was a student who entered the same year as me. I knew him all four years of my undergraduate studies. We were never too close but I took notice of many things he did. For example, I observed he sang for the worship team at chapel, was a part of the Student Activities group on campus, attended church, posted “Christian-like” statuses on Facebook and when engaged in conversation about being a Christian, he always knew the ‘right things’ to say if you catch my drift.
Yet, I also remember witnessing this student partying and drinking like it was his job, talking to me about the graphic, dirty things he did with a girl and having a mouth that needed to be “washed out with soap” as my mom used to say. (And again, I have a past of binge drinking, sexual immorality and having a bad mouth myself so who am I to judge?) But this story isn’t about judgment, it’s about this student who I found to be a role model, so to speak, on campus who wore the cross through jewelry and his obvious cross tattoo on his arm. And because I saw what I saw, I couldn’t help but wonder where his heart was and what the cross really meant to him and how seriously he took it.
As Christians, we’re all kind of like this student because we constantly sin and fall short of the glory of God; yet, that should bring us back to a place of searching our hearts and reevaluating our walks with Christ and contemplating WHY we wear the cross outwardly if there is nothing inwardly (in our hearts) related to the cross in the first place!
Proverbs 27:19 says, “As a face is reflected in water, so the heart reflects the real person.”
Back to why we SHOULD NOT take the cross lightly, utilizing it as a superficial symbol or image that has some sort of misconstrued meaning to us. The cross shouldn’t bring us back to a personalized experience; the cross should bring us back to focusing on Christ, the forgiveness of sin, and God’s ever-flowing grace, mercy and love. The cross should bring us back to the only means by which we are saved from death and our sin. Saved by the way, the truth and the life: Christ Himself (John 14:6). The verse I stated from Ephesians up above reminds us that we were once dead because of our sins but have been raised from death, just as Christ was, because of the cross. Course, that verse is the good news that focuses on God and His love and grace. What about focusing on our dirty selves that we are before Christ and the cross enter the picture? Here are the three verses prior to verse 4:
“Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins. You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil- the commander of the powers in the unseen world. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God. All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else.”
Anybody else read that and think, “Ouch.” Or maybe think- slave. I read it and am immediately convicted that because of my sin and sin nature, I am basically a slave to Satan and will receive awful, unheard of punishment and wrath from God– the One with the most power of any Being ever to exist. And to me, that’s a scary, nerve-wracking thought. BUT! Because of and ONLY because of the work at the cross, we have been rescued from that judgment. We have been rescued from that death and punishment we ultimately deserve.
So do you really think you can ‘wear the cross’ as simply a symbol or ‘wear it’ lightly after reading that? Do you not believe that the cross that rescued you should not only be worn with a spirit of boldness but also should lead you into a lifestyle? A lifestyle that the world rejects. A lifestyle that opens the door to a whole new life of joy, peace and comfort if only you give your heart to God and accept to enter into an intimate relationship with Him.
How will you choose to ‘wear the cross’?
Ryan Walters. ’98.6 Too Cold’ Founder, Blogger