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The Cross Isn’t a Brand—It’s a Mission Statement

duckdynastyConstantine was certain that God had come to him in a dream. The first “Christian” roman empire had looked up at the sun and witnessed a cross-like apparition along with the words, “ἐν τούτῳ νίκα” (In this, conquer).

Unsure of the meaning of this vision, Constantine went to sleep a couple nights later to be met by Christ who explained to him that he must use the sign of the cross against his enemies.

History tells us that Constantine marched into the Battle of the Milvian Bridge as a conqueror under the banner of the cross. Because obviously, when a warrior people hear they should use something against their enemies—it must be to vanquish them.

We’ll never know what would have happened if he was used the message of the cross against his enemies, instead of using it as a sacred conqueror’s emblem.

From that point on, the cross became a symbol of, not just of a religion, but of a triumphant, militant religion. It became status. It became fashion.

The cross isn’t a symbol

flag-crossWhenever I see a collection of symbols representing the world’s religions, I feel a sense of shame.

I should be pleased! In the message of the cross, Christianity is dramatically set apart as a philosophy of volitional service, an ideology running contrary to top-down power structures, and a theology of love through personal sacrifice—especially towards one’s enemies.

Think about it. The cross represents slow, torturous death. It’s a bizarre thing to festoon with diamonds and wear around your neck, use to peddle religious trinkets, or conflate with nationalism.

As a symbol, the cross represents a messiah who, instead of powerfully vanquishing his enemies, allowed them to violently kill him. And, through this sacrifice, set them free. It’s in this spirit that he instructs those who follow him to take up their own crosses.

Instead of representing sacrifice, the cross has become a token that stands for the religion of Christianity. Sure, it’s still used by people who are passionate about the cross, but not as a call to a certain posture towards the world. No, the cross is a brand like Target’s bullseye or Nike’s swoosh. Or it’s a badge we use to identify ourselves as Western culture’s mainstream conquerors.

The cross is a mission

jeansChristianity is Christ, but our mission is the cross. Through emulating Christ’s cruciform posture, we come alongside, elevate, serve, and save the world.

We’re not conquerors; we’re servants. If our churches are going to sport 50-foot crosses, they better be cornering the market on sacrifice and service.

The cross isn’t a brand. It isn’t a piece of flair or a viral marketing trick . It’s a call many will hear but only a few will follow.

The cross beckons us to redemptive sacrifice in the service of all.

Hopefully that’s what the bejeweled crosses on your $200 jeans means, too.

11 Comments Post a comment
  1. THIIIIS. I don’t know what it is about Texas, but every shop I stopped in on my recent vacation there had blingy cross accessories. i can’t. I just. Can’t.

    July 15, 2014
  2. You are exactly right! Too many Christians think they have to use the cross to win and conquer others in realm of morals and politics. We end up using the cross to crucify others rather than ourselves.

    July 15, 2014
  3. Christopher Miller #

    Amen, Brother! We are desensitized to the horror and suffering of the cross and Satan has used this posture to promote the idea that suffering isn’t a part of following Jesus. God help me to glory in the cross of Christ rather than the cultural cross!

    July 15, 2014
  4. froginparis #

    I haven’t been able to wear a cross for years for these very reasons. I have two, a cross with a mustard seed inside of it and one with a dove in the center. Even those I struggle with and mostly hang as reminders of what my focus should be daily.
    My favorite quote about the cross is from Terry Jones discussing The Life of Brian: “Any religion that makes a form of torture into an icon that they worship seems to me a pretty sick sort of religion quite honestly” When I heard that, it changed the way I viewed it- what is the focus of my worship? AND WHY would I wear THAT form of torture on my pants?

    July 15, 2014
  5. Totally on the right track. I’m automatically suspicious of anyone who makes the cross or Christian iconography into a brand, especially if they’re not Christlike toward others.

    July 15, 2014
  6. Love this, Jay! Thanks for the reminder.

    July 16, 2014
  7. You speak profound truths sir.

    July 18, 2014
  8. Bob #

    How would we react to a family member or friend wearing an electric chair to symbolize the method of their loved one’s execution. What’s important is to recognize Jesus’ suffering & death for our sin and thus salvation. I think the cross as a symbol receives more honor, devotion & worship than the Creator/Lord; just as man made buildings do instead of Christ our savior.

    August 8, 2014

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