For the first half of my life, I always attended denominations where the cross was the center piece of the worship center and service. As a catholic through my teenage years, the stations of the cross served as magnificent stain glass windows, stretching from one side of the building to the other. These images were a weekly reminder of the Passion Week, Jesus’ final week on earth leading up to his crucifixion and resurrection. As I began to ponder the meaning of the cross, Michael W. Smith came out with the popular hit, Cross of Gold, adding another perspective to my thought process.
However, when I reached my twenties, I began to visit several congregations who took Exodus 20:4 literally. The second of the 10 commandments, the Lord makes a distinction between the first, having no other god and second command, creating or establishing objects of worship that replace God. In place of a cross, musicians, the pulpit and speakers communicating the Word of God were the focal point of worship. Making a transition to a church which did not have a cross hanging on the back wall behind the altar was definitely an adjustment.
Since my wife and I spent the first 18 months of our marriage living a few miles from Willow Creek, located in South Barrington, Illinois, I embraced this journey to discover if the cross is an idol. Experiencing Community, a mid week service for believers, I was blessed to gather with thousands of other Christians. The service was like a mini-concert with 30 minutes of singing, an infomercial transition to the pastor’s message, usually by John Ortberg with Bill Hybels filling in to cast a vision for the future of the church. This experience taught me you don’t have to wear to cross share your faith. While the cross may be a reminder, the condition of your heart is what God is truly concerned with, Luke 6:45.
In my thirties, I faced another theological dilemma as a High School Bible teacher and coach. Does a Christian school have to possess a cross within their logo? As a former golf professional with 3 years of experience in apparel, I worked with a seamstress to create a logo for our new golf uniforms. The final proof was a red paw print of a lion. Whenever I traveled, the logo was a conversational piece, often confused with several colleges providing an opportunity to correct their assumption and share about my school. Since the cross offends people or makes others feel uncomfortable, I felt excluding the cross was the right decision until a new athletic director placed a cross inside the paw on all team uniforms.
In closing, I think the cross can be an idol, especially for those who attempt to profit off of it. However, for me, the cross is similar to Moses’ words in Deuteronomy 6:4-9. I believe the cross is a symbol of Jesus’ sacrifice, sin offering and victory over death, 1 Corinthians 15:54-57. Like the lyrics within Michael W. Smith’s song, “the cross means a whole lot more to me.” May you test everything I have said, 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22 and make your on conclusion based upon Jesus’ words in Matthew 9:12, figuring things out on your own. Enjoy the journey!
by Jay Mankus