" The power of the cross departed when it was changed from a thing of death to a thing of beauty. When man made of it a symbol, hung it around their necks as an ornament or made its outline before their faces as a magic sign to ward off evil, then it became at best a weak emblem, at worst a positive fetish. As such it is revered today by millions who know absolutely nothing about its power."
A.W. Tozer – The Radical Cross
I hope that quote stopped you in your tracks as much as it did me. I have been chewing on this for a couple of weeks now, wanting to write about it so badly, but I had to be sure what God was teaching me before I dared put it on paper.
Between the end of that last sentence and the beginning of this one there was a time lag of some length. I hesitated because I promised myself and God that I wasn't going to rail against the church anymore. I've said all I can say and everyone who was going to listen, has already, so it's time to move on. I still will have no qualms about pointing out the obvious like Ryan Dobson does is one of my favorite books titled "Be Intolerant, Because Some Things Are Just Stupid."
Back to the subject at hand. It is very much the fad now to wear a cross around your neck, have it tattooed on your body, or have it on your clothing. There is nothing wrong with any of those in and of themselves. It is the meaning behind it that interests me. Why is a person displaying a cross? Sadly I believe that often times it is because that is what everyone else is doing. Why else would you see celebrities whose lifestyle is blatantly un-Christ like displaying crosses on their bodies? I am convinced it is because they have no idea how radical the cross is.
Remember that the cross in biblical times was not a thing of beauty. It did not consist of jewels or precious metals, but rather it was an ugly instrument of death made of bloodstained wood. No one who went upon the cross survived, not even our Lord. It was an ugly, horribly painful way to die and there was nothing pretty about it.
The Sunday after reading what Tozer said, I was sitting in church and I found myself just staring at the large cross which is displayed on the front wall of the sanctuary. It is very simply made of hewn wood with no fancy adornments of any kind. That really spoke to me and quite frankly, I missed a goodly portion of the spiritual talk because I was really caught up in that cross. As I stared, it became something ugly, something disturbing, an object that was suddenly becoming something that I now see differently in this very radical way. It became a symbol of how cruel and hateful we humans can be.
Then I began to envision Jesus hanging on that cross and it started to become glorious, wonderful, and beautiful. It began to dawn on me that the cross is not the symbol of beauty. Jesus is, and He took all the brutality and anger and hate that it took to nail him to that cross and beat it down…hard.
My wife and I have the cross symbol all over our house, after all, that's what Christians do isn't it? We have a very special cross sitting on the mantle of our fireplace. My Dad made it. His old church was being torn down to make way for a new building and he obtained some of the wood from the old sanctuary and he made little six inch crosses in a frame for everyone who wanted one. Even that very special cross has taken on a new radical meaning, a new spiritual power for me.
After reading this, I would hope that the next time you wear a cross necklace, or hang one from your rear-view mirror, or wear your Christian t-shirt with the stylized cross on it, you will stop to think of the radical power of that symbol. The cross itself is ugly. The beauty lies in the wonderful work of Christ that He did while hanging there.
When we can see the cross in that light…….
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