Wearing the Cross or Preaching the Cross?

Millions of people all over the world wear a cross. A lady here in the UK has been ordered not to wear her cross at work. There is a campaign running and according to the campaigners the case has received considerable media coverage highlighting freedom of expression and the freedom to wear symbols of the Christian faith.

I received an email linking to the campaign. Here’s some of the blurb from the Not Ashamed of the Cross Website:

act now to protect christian freedoms.

Shirley Chaplin was barred from wearing her confirmation cross after nearly thirty years in front line nursing. Now hers is one of four landmark Christian freedom cases going to the European Court of Human Rights. Yet the British Government is not supporting Shirley and has even suggested that the cross is not a generally recognised form of practising the Christian faith.

Please contact the PM and your MP to urge the Government to support Shirley and historic Christian freedoms.

The cross is undeniably a symbol of the Christian faith but wearing one round the neck isn’t. And neither is wearing one a requirement of the Christian faith. I do not find a text anywhere in the Bible that says wearing one is either a symbol of the Christian faith or that wearing one is required of Christians. So on the one hand the campaign is laudable especially in terms of free speech yet on the other it completely – or potentially – misrepresents the Cross of Christ.

What the Bible does speak about very clearly is the ‘Offence of the Cross’. This explicitly refers to the Preaching of the Cross – and it’s this preaching of the Cross that is so hugely offensive to the natural man. My fear about this campaign – I’m aware good people will be involved – is that it may protect the freedom to wear one as a Christian symbol but forbid the preaching of the Cross itself. Why is this so?

We must not and we cannot confuse the cross as a symbol (worn around the neck) and the Preaching of the Cross as revealed to us in the Bible. I’m certainly not ashamed of the cross but wearing it round the neck has nothing at all to do with the Christian faith – that is the Gospel of Christ.

The message of the Cross of Christ tells us very clearly that God Himself has provided the only unique means whereby sinners may be saved from the wrath of God. To first century Jews and Gentiles (everybody else) this message was massively offensive and it is no less so today.

I also fear the campaign at best will give Christians the freedom to wear their faith symbol in the marketplace of ideas, in a society that propagates diversity and where all religions are equal – which of course they are not. Christianity is either true or it isn’t. And as it is in fact the truth ALL other religions are false. Modern sensibilities will not allow this, but is what people and governments need to hear but do not want to hear and will not listen.

What was the cross? It was an instrument of torture, of brutality, of humiliation, of utter degradation! It was a place reserved for criminals, a place of excruciating agony and a place of bloody agonising death! This is the true Cross where my dear Saviour the Lord Jesus Christ stood in my place to suffer the wrath of God upon His holy and righteous soul. The Cross is the only way of Salvation, there is no other! We are either saved by the cross of Christ or not at all.

The Apostle Paul said, ‘For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God’ (1Co 1:18). It’s the word or the message of the cross not a symbol that’s needed.

If Shirley wins her case and is allowed to wear her cross, how will this advance the Gospel? I think not at all. I wish her well, I wish the campaign well, but I believe it’s a backward step as far as the Gospel of Christ is concerned. Let us therefore not be ashamed of the preaching of the Gospel and as God gives us opportunity let us speak of this cross, this place of propitiation.