Chawnghilh's Blog

Carrying or wearing the CROSS?

Posted in Qualitus : Habitus by chawnghilh on December 5, 2009

Is it wrong to wear a cross? Some Christians believe it’s not wrong, yet others say it is.

Various strands of thought on this question lead to the different conclusions you’ve heard. We outline the topic as follows:

1. The bigger issue is that of Christian symbols. Does the Bible exclude all figures, images, and visible tokens of our faith? No. The Israelites carved many such images into the Levitical tabernacle, at God’s command. And Moses shaped a bronze serpent on a pole to remind them of God their healer (Numbers 21:8, 9). Later that serpent was demolished when it became an object of worship (2 Kings 18:4). Thus, not mere making of images was prohibited in the Decalogue, but explicit worship of them was. While the New Testament allows that physical objects may suggest spiritual realities, it rejects their use for worship. A dove, for example, reminds us of the Holy Spirit, while bread and a cup represent the Lord’s body and blood.

2. With this background, we examine the unique case of the cross as a symbol of faith, and for evidence that Christ’s followers may, or may not, use it.

a. The word cross: In Greek, stauros means a stake or post, standing upright to receive a human unto death, but its precise shape is not altogether certain. New Testament writers used the term for

1) the physical instrument on which Jesus died,

2) the message of His death, and

3) the self-denial Christ urged upon His disciples.

b. The physical instrument: Though first century Romans may have executed criminals by nailing them to a single upright stake, other torture stakes were also used by that time, shaped like the letters T or X, for example. The + shape for Christ’s cross may be implied by the facts that an inscription hung above His head (Luke 23:38) and that more than one nail was used for His hands (John 20:25).

c. Pre-Christian crosses: Those who oppose the cross as a Christian symbol point to its use by worshipers of other gods in ancient Babylon. We should not conclude, however, that every practice in pagan religion is automatically banned for Christians, as candles, incense, washings, and other items illustrate. If others used the shape of a cross or stake as a symbol, it does not follow that Christians must not, since the only Savior and Lord died on one.

d. Cross in Christian devotion: It is true that stake and tree are more accurate words for the instrument of Christ’s death than cross, and that the traditional two-beamed “cross” became prominent in Christian devotion in later centuries, not the first. It is further true that the Bible’s homage of the cross (Galatians 6:14, for example) refers to the redemption accomplished there more than to the rugged instrument of torture and death. On the other hand, a symbol’s role is precisely that — a visual reminder of an unseen reality.

Romans 14 teaches that, when opinions vary, we should show grace toward others in secondary matters of faith and practice. Wearing the cross is a case in point. The conviction here (v. 5b) is that nothing is wrong with the symbol when worn for the right reasons. We should never worship the cross but rather the Christ who died on a cross. Regardless of its origin, the cross has become a precious symbol for Christians of the salvation Jesus won there. If you choose to wear one, let it signify — and your conduct confirm — that you trust and obey the One who died for us all.


One Response

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  1. hmingtea said, on December 5, 2009 at 8:02 pm

    No comment from me, but it’s interesting!

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