(Note: I have my son’s permission to share this conversation.)
“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18).
My son stepped into my study this morning to tell me he was heading out for work. I noticed the cross hanging from his neck, not something he usually wears. I said, “Let me ask you a question. When you start letting curse words fly, what are your co-workers going to think about that cross you’re wearing?” Mind you, I love my son, but I know him. He professes a faith in Christ, and I believe it is so. But, he’s a young adult who works in construction, not exactly an atmosphere that monitors inappropriate language. Like a sponge, he tends to absorb what is around him. I’ve heard him use “colorful” words. I’m not excusing his language, it’s been an issue we’ve discussed often. He has told me that he is trying to “clean up” his language. When I posed my question to him, I was not doing so in a condemning manner, but rather to make him think.
He replied, “Well, I’ll just hide my cross behind my shirt.”
I understood the thought behind his answer because I’ve taught him since he was little that we are to honor and respect God and the things of God like the Bible and the Cross (and don’t run in the church – this is God’s house!). I’ve taught him that, as Christians, we should strive to never bring any shame on the name of God. So in his mind, he thought that by hiding his cross behind his shirt, he would not shame it.
Doesn’t that sound so much like the reasoning of this world? Rather than change our behavior in order to honor God, we hide His Word, we hide the cross, we hide Him. In fact, the trend in church “décor” in recent years is to remove the cross so that no one is “offended” by it. (That’s a whole other blog post!)
So I told him, “Son, we don’t hide the cross when we stumble and sin; that’s when we need to grab hold of the cross all the more and draw on it’s strength to help us.”
Listen to Peter’s words about the cross: “He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree [cross], so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness” (1 Peter 2:24, emphasis added). There are two important things we find in this verse.
First, the cross is for sinners. The cross is for those of us who make mistakes, for the ones who are weak, for those of us who do foolish things, who fall into pit of sin and walk in the wilderness of the consequences. The cross is the place where Jesus took on all our sin and shame, our profane mouths and promiscuous acts, our greed and selfishness, our lies, our addictions, our lustful thoughts, our rebellion and disobedience. Jesus didn’t die for those who have it all together. He died for those of us who are falling apart in our own human sinfulness. He died that we might be set free from the punishment of sin, but also the power of sin. We are not helpless against sin. If you are in Christ, sin no longer has authority over you. Through the cross, Christ enables us to die to sin.
Second, and this was the point I was making to my son – the cross helps us in our weaknesses. By holding fast to the cross of Jesus, we draw strength to enable us to overcome our un-Christ like habits and attractions. When I look to the cross, I am reminded again of what Jesus did for me, and I find strength to fight against the enemy and to flee from temptation. I’m not implying that the cross is some magic talisman; but it is a symbol of the transforming power of Christ – a power we are encouraged to call on every day and every moment. My son won’t be able to “clean up” his language, but Christ can. I can’t undo the consequences of my actions, but Christ can work them all out to my good and His glory. You will not be able to control the sinful desires of your flesh, but Christ can help you stand strong in godliness. Through the cross, Christ empowers us to live for righteousness.
I advised my son to wrap his hand around his cross when those words started to form in his mind, and remember that Jesus died to enable him to live a righteous life, language and all.
Have you chosen to hide the cross instead of letting it do its transforming work in your life? My friend, the cross is meant to be seen, by you and me and the whole world. Let’s put the cross back in our churches, in our hearts and in our lives.
Lord Jesus, thank you for the Cross, the symbol of my freedom from sin and shame and death. Thank you for dying that I might live. May I esteem Your cross and hold it high every day. Amen.