Friday, April 22, 2011

CGtM: The Not-So-Wonderful Cross?

      Jews have the Star of David.  Muslims have the Crescent Moon and Star.  Taoists have Yin and Yang.  Christians have a Roman public execution tool.
      The Christian God incarnate, Jesus, was killed by crucifixion, and his future followers would use the instrument of his death as their symbol.  That's only a little morbid.  Perhaps this is why Mormons are so strongly opposed to it.  You can usually spot a Mormon Ward or Stake (aside from the bold letters "Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints") because it will look similar to a Protestant Christian church minus any sign of the cross.  They reject the symbol of the cross on the basis of its very nature of being that which killed Christ.  "If Jesus was killed by a shotgun, would you wear it around your neck?"  I think it is important, especially on this Good Friday, to reflect upon what the cross means and why Christians adopt it as their symbol.
      First, let's look at why Mormons prefer not to have the cross as their symbol.  The cross, obviously, represents Jesus' death.  Mormons claim to celebrate his life, not his death.  Former President Hinckley stated, "And so, because our Savior lives, we do not use the symbol of His death as the symbol of our faith. But what shall we use? No sign, no work of art, no representation of form is adequate to express the glory and the wonder of the Living Christ. He told us what that symbol should be when He said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15)."  There are two important things we can draw from this: the inadequacy of the cross as a symbol of Christ, and that the apparent symbol of Mormons is "keeping the commandments".  It is on the second of these that I will focus.
      Jesus lived a life of perfection.  He overcame temptation, he performed amazing miracles, he was a great teacher, he was morally perfect.  He is the greatest role model a person can have.  It's no wonder why Mormons, who attain eternal life through works, would want to celebrate his life.  He is the model for future Mormons to become exalted beings, or gods.
      But that's not enough.
      Jesus didn't just live a good life.  He didn't preach the gospel then say "hope you get it this time!"  He was tortured and executed by his own people.  People who accused him of heresy, of claiming that he, Jesus, was God.  He died an innocent man, taking the punishment for, not his sins, but ours.  The burden he boar, the cross he carried was the punishment for the wrongs we have done.  We've heard "Jesus died for you" so often that perhaps it has lost its meaning.  Allow me to explain what it really means.  All humans, ALL of them (Romans 2:9-12, 3:23) have sinned against God, have willfully violated His laws, and because we sinned against the Everlasting, our just punishment is everlasting.  "For the wages of sin is death..." states Romans 6:23.  Christ died in our place.  He was punished so that we don't have to be punished.  That is what "Jesus died for you" means.  Are you glad Jesus died?  I am.
      But. That's. Not. Enough.
      Jesus didn't stay dead.  If he would have died, The End, that would mean nothing.  Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:14 says, "and if Christ be not risen, then our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain."  For if death had truly overcome Jesus, then how could he be able to save us from death?  But he is risen ("He is risen indeed!" the congregation responds).  He showed his power over death.  Christ was raised from the dead and made appearances to many people over 40 days.  He is more than a role model; he is our one and only savior.  The fire-and-brimstone of the previous paragraph doesn't just stop with our condemnation.  Take Romans 6:23, "For the wages of sin is death..."  If we stopped here we would have no hope in heaven.  We are all worthy of death and no matter what we do, we cannot overcome our sinfulness.  But the verse does not stop there.  It goes on, "...But the gift of God is Eternal Life through Jesus Christ our Lord."  We have Eternal Life, living in the presence of God the Father forever, only through Jesus Christ our Risen Lord and Savior, who died on the cross to take our punishments in our stead, and who resurrected, conquering death to save us from eternal damnation.
      So I ask you, in light of what I've written about what this weekend of Good Friday and Easter Sunday is about, in light of what Christ did on the cross, in light of Jesus telling many people "take up your cross and follow me" (Matthew 10:38,16:24; Mark 8:34,10:28; Luke 9:23,14:27), and in light of the following verses in which the word "cross" is used: (1 Corinthians 1:17,18; Galatians 5:11,6:12,14; Ephesians 2:16; Philippians 2:8,3:18; Colossians 1:20,2:14; and Hebrews 12:2), how should we view the cross of Christ?

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