The Cross: Lifeline or Lodestone
“But may it not be for me to boast if it is not in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”—Galatians 6:14
“The cross of our Lord Jesus Christ is either an offence to us or else it is a thing above everything else in which we glory… These are the only two positions—offence, or glory.” D.M. Lloyd-Jones
Sadly, the cross in our society has become more of an ornament than it is a symbol of our Lord’s passion and our redemption. People have taken that old rugged cross, sanded out all of the burs and splinters, added some decorative beveling to the corners, stained it, and coated it with eight careful coats of polyurethane. The resultant cross is something beautiful to behold with the eye but has lost all traces of the savior who had hung there. The resultant cross is something that can be casually dangled from the neck for good luck but does little to remind us just what our salvation cost.
While many Christians do not wear a cross for this reason, which is ultimately idolatry, I prefer to wear, a cross. Yet, when I wear a cross around my neck, I see it as a brand of ownership, always reminding me to whom I belong. According to Levitical Law, when a slave is freed, if he chooses to remain a slave in the service of his master, his master is to take him into a doorpost and drive an awl through his ear (presumably to add a stud or ring) as a sign of that permanent ownership (Deuteronomy 15). While I do not suggest that all Christians to enlist their pastors to start driving awls through their ears, the principle is the same. I see the cross as a sign of ownership. My slavery to Christ cannot and will not be rescinded.
The bottom line is, though, that there is no middle ground when it comes to your understanding of the cross. You either glory in it–as it is and for what it is–or you hate it and all that it stands for. When you hate it, you are prone to cover it up and smooth it over, making it more acceptable to your sensibilities. The problem is that God is not concerned about our sensibilities. We must conform our lives to the image of God, not attempt to conform God to our image.
Before I came to seminary, I served as an interim pastor of two small Methodist churches in the country. One of those churches, in their sanctuary, had what I considered to be the most elegant cross that I have ever seen. It was made from rough-cut fence-post lumber and lashed together. The cross was rough, full of splinters, the beams were not symmetrical or completely straight, and it looked as if it had weathered a thousand storms. To me, it was a thing of beauty. Why? Because it was a constant reminder of the cost my savior paid for my soul. The cross will be either our lifeline or our lodestone in this sea of the world; there is no “neutral buoyancy” anywhere within it.