Why Christians Venerate the Cross

crFor many people, an obstacle to faith in Jesus is the seemingly gory nature of the core tenets of Christian history. Jesus suffered a horribly violent end, yet Christians revere the cross that was the instrument of that torturous death. And they celebrate His victory over death by partaking of His “body” – honoring His last injunction to “take and eat” and “take and drink” of His body and blood.

One challenger asked why Christians venerate the cross. If a friend were gunned down, he asked, would it make sense for those left behind to wear miniature guns as pendants around their necks? Or to worship the gun used to kill him?

This is an interesting challenge. Framed that way, it does seem a bit odd to incorporate into our holy images the means by which Jesus was put to death. But we are not worshiping the cross. We are worshiping God, in the person of his Son, through whose perfect life we find our hope for the future. More specifically, we are remembering, as He asked us to, what He was willing to do for us.

So, to answer the specific question, Christians would not venerate the gun that was used to murder a friend. But here is the difference. Jesus’ death on the cross is the most amazing gift that anyone has ever given. Consider: despite the accuracy of the label “murder” as applied to what occurred to Him that day 2000 years ago, Jesus told us that no one takes his life.

In John 10: 17-18, Jesus said:

“For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again. No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father.”

Jesus lay down his life voluntarily so as to fulfill the Scriptures. He paid the price for our sins to make right the broken relationship with God that sin had introduced into the world. Through His perfect life, he restored the damage that the first humans had caused, and which all of us born since then have inherited. He literally gave – and is continuing to give – eternal life through Him, by balancing the scales of justice and mercy. Death did not defeat Him, nor did the cross. Through His perfect life and the sacrifice of the cross, He defeated death for us, atoning for our sins before a perfect God and providing a means to be re-united with God.

However barbaric it seems today, the cross remains the symbol for the immense love of God, as well as for the victory of Jesus over sin and death. So, while no one should revel in the gory details, the cross remains today, and for all time, a powerful symbol of that love.

Posted by Al Serrato

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