Sunday, February 7, 2010

Casual Cross-Wearing

A former mistress shares the details of her affair on public television. Her words, I won't remember beyond tomorrow. But her image, I won't soon forget.

It's not her sun-streaked hair or her understated make-up. Not a facial deformity or a particularly stunning outfit.

No. Instead, it's the delicate, golden cross that dangles from her neck and rests against an inverted triangle of pale flesh, perfectly framed by a black v-neck blouse. The stark contrast of black and white directs attention to the cross and causes me to gasp.

Last week, we discussed this image as it hints at taking pride in our sin, at glorifying the sin instead of the One who forgives it.

This week, this same image speaks of a different issue--of how serious it is to wear the cross of Jesus.

In recent years, the cross has become more of a mindless decoration like hearts and arrows at Valentines' Day or chicks and eggs at Easter. Hung on the walls of our houses, plastered across t-shirts, and stuck as decals on our vehicles--you don't have to look far to see a stylized version of the cross of Calvary.

But even though it's been marketed as "decorative" to the masses, the cross still holds serious meaning to most.

To me, the cross symbolizes my Savior's death, His sacrifice to save me from my sin and from separation from a holy God, from eternal death. Even though non-Christians may not accept this meaning entirely, they do still equate (and expect) higher moral living from one who claims and wears the cross.

I, myself, wear a cross around my neck most days. In doing so, I am saying, "I am a Christian." Each time I touch it, I remember just how much my Savior has done for me, how He will get me through whatever problem I'm facing at that moment, and how I need to keep Him front and center throughout the 24 hours in each day.

I don't think there is anything wrong with wearing a cross--whether on my van, my body, or my doorpost.

Yet, when I do so, I must be aware that I am equating my actions with Christ in a very visual way.

Granted, once one accepts Christ as Savior and Lord, her every action is scrutinized by a public who expects her to achieve instant Christ-like perfection. But with a cross around her neck, even those who don't know her personally are aware of her stand for Christ, and you can bet they're just waiting for the chance to criticize a Christian as a hypocrite.

This is why my skin crawls when I see someone glorifying in his/her sin while wearing that cross.

Paul warns in Philippians 3, "many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame" (18b-19).

John MacArthur explains, "Implied in Paul's language is that these men did not claim to oppose Christ, His work on the Cross, or salvation by grace alone through faith alone, but they did not pursue Christlikeness in manifest godliness. Apparently, they were posing as friends of Christ...."*

In essence, to boast or "glory" in one's sin and "shame" while claiming freedom in Christ is an abuse of the cross and, perhaps, reveals that person as a true enemy of the cross.

But I don't think this is the case with all. Instead, I believe many have naively bought into the notion that a cross can be "just" a casual decoration. And as such, they do not consider the seriousness of sporting a cross while sinning or rattling off about their sin.

But Jesus, Himself, warns about our Christian witness faltering so that it causes others in Christ to sin: "But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea" (Matt. 18:6).

In other words, we, as fellow believers, are better off dead rather than to lead someone into sin. And I'm afraid boasting in our sin while wearing a cross does just that.

It's an admonition for us all--to wear the cross of Jesus proudly,yes. But to also understand there is no such thing as casual-cross wearing. We must all live carefully, being ever vigilant in how we present Christ to an always-watching sea of eyes.

*John MacArthur. The MacArthur Bible Commentary. Thomas Nelson, 2005.

1 comment:

  1. I am guilty of wearing a cross around my neck without giving thought to what it really means. Some friends of mine told me that it's unacceptable to wear the cross as jewelry, or use it as a decoration for the walls in your home. They stripped their jewelry boxes and wall decorations of any crosses, so that they will keep it sacred.

    But I think the way you're wearing your cross as a reminder of Christ, and an aid to keep you from sin is a beautiful way to honor the cross.

    Thanks for yet another thought provoking post!