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.

Life is a war zone

There may be a worse feeling, but I believe one of the absolute worst feelings is watching one of your children go through pain and suffering; it doesn’t matter if it’s physical, emotional or mental.

Life is a war zone. And we are quite possibly our own worst enemy.

Today is the 10th anniversary of 9/11. Out of a blue-sky day came pain so corrupt that it forever changed the way we look at life. That’s what evil and pain does in our personal lives as well. It strikes “out of the blue,” many times without warning. And we are left with only one question.

Why?

How do you explain…to yourself…or to anyone else for that matter…why must we endure pain? Why must we endure suffering?

I got nuthin’.

And that is the point. A wise man (Dave Cover) said this morning, Trust is not the absence of doubt. We will always have doubts. Doubts about decisions we make; decisions we don’t make; decisions we should have made; decisions we shouldn’t have made. Doubts about the future. Doubts about our own mental or emotional capabilities. When we trust in our own understanding of a situation; we completely miss the bigger picture.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart  and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6

Pain and suffering are always stumbling blocks, even for those of great faith. It run so totally counter intuitive to what we think God should do for us. After all, what parent looks forward to disciplining their child? What parent wants to make them struggle? But we do. Because we see the bigger picture.

We think we can replace God’s wisdom with our own…not accepting that our wisdom, most of the time, is flawed beyond repair. We are our own mind’s worst enemy.

When we replace God’s wisdom with our own, the result is a decent into places angels may fear to tread. Our souls become dark and closed. When we rely only on ourselves during times of pain and suffering, we usually find our lives continue to spiral, with no clear direction.

Tim Keller, one of my favorite authors, compares trust to falling off a cliff. As you’re falling, you see a branch sticking out of the rocks that you could grab to break your fall. Your mind doubts that it’s strong enough to stop your fall, but you’ll probably grab for it anyway, hoping and trusting it will save you.

Trust is not the absence of doubt.

It’s not the quality of your faith that gets you through a crisis. It’s the quality of what you have faith in. (More wisdom from Dave Cover).

So the only comfort I can offer is this:

Are you trusting in God or your own reasoning when pain and suffering strike out of the blue?
Do you trust God less when pain and suffering strike, with or without explanation?
Do you trust that the pain you feel right now is something God is using to draw you closer to Him? Or back to His wisdom for your life?

If you know me, you know I don’t believe in coincidence. On my way to worship this morning, a song I’ve never heard came on the radio. It imprinted on my brain. That, with today’s message, was exactly what I needed to hear today.

A message to help me while those I love are hurting. A message I hope I can give to them to ease some of the hurt.

I found the song on youtube so I want to share it with you.