Why I wear a cross

Do you wear a cross necklace? If not, you probably know someone who does. Do you ever wonder why?

I’m not going to debate whether a cross is a pagan symbol for various Sun-deities. Nor, am I going to debate whether Christians should or shouldn’t wear a cross. I’m also not going to debate whether Jesus was crucified on a “cross” or a “stake.” A case can be made for the later from some Greek translations of the New Testament, but that’s splitting hairs and we’re not going there.

It’s true, the cross symbol predates Christianity centuries before Jesus was crucified. It wasn’t until around 430AD that crosses began to be seen in churches. Over the centuries, this symbol has been both celebrated and perverted by religions worldwide.

In today’s culture I believe the cross has been domesticated…tamed to the point of being irrelevant. It appears on so many things, and its original intent (pagan or sacred) has been largely lost in translation. We see celebrities and athletes adorn themselves with crosses….sometimes in numbers that would cause drowning if they ever fell into deep water. They must be super religious, right?

I have a small cross I wear pretty much 24/7, but not as a fashion statement or good luck talisman that protects me from bad juju. There are no special powers about this piece of gold. I don’t pray to it or worship it in any way.

Soooooo, why do I wear it, you might wonder? After all, a cross or crucifix is representative of one of the most horrific methods of execution known to humankind. History states it was probably the Assyrians and Babylonians who originated this method of torture; but it was the Romans who perfected the art around the first century. It was so torturous that, by decree except in cases of treason, it was rarely used on Roman citizens.

According to Britannica.com:

Usually, the condemned man, after being whipped, or “scourged,” dragged the crossbeam of his cross to the place of punishment, where the upright shaft was already fixed in the ground. Stripped of his clothing, he was bound fast with outstretched arms to the crossbeam or nailed firmly to it through the wrists. The crossbeam was then raised high against the upright shaft …. Next, the feet were tightly bound or nailed to the upright shaft. A ledge inserted about halfway up the upright shaft gave some support to the body. Over the criminal’s head was placed a notice stating his name and his crime. Death ultimately occurred through a combination of constrained blood circulation, organ failure, and asphyxiation as the body strained under its own weight. It could be hastened by shattering the legs with an iron club, which prevented them from supporting the body’s weight and made inhalation more difficult, accelerating both asphyxiation and shock.

If the sacrificial death of Jesus was needed to redeem and reconcile humankind back to its creator, there surely were less gruesome ways other than crucifixion to make that happen; surely there were quicker methods that would have accomplished this atonement. Why so much brutality? Why so much savagery? Why death on a cross?

What’s missing from our 21st century view of the cross is exactly that….the raw realization of that brutality and savagery Jesus experienced….for his creation. Why did Jesus, the incarnate God, choose to suffer to this extent at the hands of evil? Why…since at any point he could have stopped all of it by simply stepping down off the cross…did  he voluntarily endure six hours of pain, broken bones, thorns pressed into his head, and eventual suffocation of his human form? Would blood from a finger prick make the same statement? It surely could have sufficed for a blood offering. How about a quick spear through the heart? Surely that would have been preferable to six hours of agony.

Which makes this historical event all the more an epiphany moment for me. The cross is representative of both darkest evil and radiating goodness. It’s message is one of both humble surrender and powerful victory. For six hours, evil was unleashed and allowed to do its damnedest against God the Son. And in the end, it appears evil was successful in silencing both Jesus and the movement.

Until three days later when the seemingly impossible happened. Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection are the perfect bookends to show his sovereign power over sin and death. And, the fact that so many people witnessed and encountered the risen Christ after the fact makes this seemingly impossible event all the more relevant. The authority of the empty tomb trumped the agony and savagery of the cross. It was the ultimate statement that evil did not, could not and will not win in the end. And, that is why this “movement” exploded during the centuries that followed. Too many people witnessed the impossible and Christianity became impossible to stop, despite continued torture and crucifixion of its followers.

That symbol of torture is my reminder of hope; it’s my reminder of how much pain Jesus suffered for my sake; a reminder of how much my life means to God.

A finger prick could never mean as much.

Playing along with others over at Peabea’s Pictorial Tuesday.

A is for Adam

His resume is very short. Records show previous occupations as a gardener, horticulturalist, farmer and zoologist.

His past residences included Eden (location today is unknown). His character references include the Maker of the Universe.

No known direct ancestors.

His DNA run through all of us. Whether you believe Adam was the very first man ever on earth or the result of an evolutionary track, at some point God chose him to be the point man in his creation story.

We pick up the story in the Garden of Eden.

Hey God?

Yes, Adam?

I’m getting lonely. This place is great and all, but it’s kinda hard to hold a conversation with a gorilla. Can you help me out?

Sure. Relax and I’ll get back with you as soon as possible.

A while later, a fetching creature Adam has never seen before appears after his afternoon nap. Adam calls her Eve and teaches her all about the garden. He shows her around and tries to impress her with the fact that he is the sole caretaker of paradise. And life is good.

You could say it was perfect. Until…..

It was her fault, God! She made me do it!

Do what?

Eat that apple…you know, the one from the tree we’re not suppose to touch. I told her we weren’t suppose to go near it.

So…..why did you choose to eat it?

Why did I ch…..? Are you kidding me? Have you seen her? I really couldn’t help myself. But it really is all her fault. Or, maybe….it’s yours for making her so irresistible! 

We see Adam avoiding responsibility and throwing Eve under the bus when called on the carpet for the couple’s rebellion against the one rule they couldn’t bend or break. And to make matters worse, when it happens, we see Adam and his new wife trying to hide from God…too embarrassed about their actions to come when he calls for them. So embarrassed about their newly-discovered nakedness that they hastily try and sew together coverings from leaves. But even the most talented Project Runway designer would not have been able to succeed in creating a suitable covering for their shame.

We’re all like Adam, aren’t we? We like to bend and break the rules and then think we can hide our actions from God. And oh, how we love to blame others and not accept responsibility for our own decisions. But we can’t ever really hide from an omnipresent God, can we? Although he called to Adam and Eve while in the garden, he already knew where they were. He already knew what had happened. And he already had a plan.

As they could no longer live in the perfection of Eden, they were expelled from God’s garden paradise. But seeing their futile attempts to cover themselves as completely inadequate, blood was shed and with great sadness God provided animal skins to cover and protect them as they faced their new circumstances.

The analogy is not lost on those who believe in atonement and saving grace. Because of their disobedience, they could no longer live in the perfection of God’s presence. God effectively had to separate bad from good, error from truth, death from life.

But Adam and Eve could not cover their sin adequately through their own doing. It took the sacrificial death and the shedding of blood at God’s hand to provide the protection they needed as they began life outside of His perfect plan.

One of the first Messianic prophesies found in Genesis.

I’m playing along with the bunch over at ABC Wednesday for Round XIV. For this round, I’m once again journeying through the bible. I’ve done it twice already, but think there’s still more to discover. Hop on over to check out what the rest of the world has to offer for this round.

Linking up with ABC Wednesday
ABCWed14

 

 

 

 

White as snow

It wasn’t the trifecta snowstorm I long for every January, but 8-9 inches was enough to keep me home for the day. Entrepreneur braved the single digit temps and plowed our Hyundai SUV through the subdivision on his way to the office. Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds…No. Wait. That’s the post office. It does apply to him too.

Back at the homefront, Tanner and I didn’t waste any time enjoying the lovely white mantle outside. We enjoyed it for about 20 minutes before my fingers were stinging from the cold…even through gloves.

Snow.

A pure, white blanket covering the imperfections of the ground. When it started on Wednesday night, I was almost giddy with anticipation. I watched it gently cover the yard until darkness set in, and then I watched the flakes glisten in the light of the backyard floodlight. I went to sleep listening to it blow against the window.

Snow.

It falls thousands of feet from the sky, yet makes no sound when it hits the ground. It melts and paves the way for new growth in the spring. When the sun shines on it, it’s blindingly bright. Even though in a few days, life’s dirtiness is revealed, for a brief time, everything is clean and perfect.

And I thought about how we, as flawed creatures, could really use a white blanket to cover our imperfections. Snowflakes are said to be unique. No two are exactly alike. So it is with us. So, yes, we are all a little flaky…

Okay, okay, back to being philosophical.

Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. ~Psalm 51:7

Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow. ~Isaiah 1:8

As I looked, “thrones were set in place, and the Ancient of Days took his seat. His clothing was as white as snow… ~Daniel 7:9

Do you see the trend?

Just like the imperfections of the ground, I am covered with a mantle of white. The sins I commit are covered by a robe of white that hides my dirtiness. My sins are still there, but just as the snow covers the imperfections of the ground, so my imperfections are covered. With this covering, I glisten in the light of the sun.

I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. ~1 John 2:1

It doesn’t matter how dirty my heart is. Every single time, it’s covered. Just like new snowfall silently covers the ground. Every. Single. Time. Not remembering the last time it fell.

Then one of the elders asked me, “These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?”…And he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. ~Revelation 7:13-14

Snow is in our forecast.

I can’t wait.