The pervasive influence of the cross (16 Jul 2017)

An air hostess wearing the cross pendent as an accessory while at work was summoned to court. The reason is that by wearing the cross, she violates the religious freedom of other groups. This was narrated to us by a pastor whose church we attended while we were holidaying in Wooler (a town between Edinburgh and Newcastle) and was also reported in the news. This is indeed shocking because it happened in a country whose religion is supposedly Christianity. However, perhaps, this demonstrates how significant the cross is, even to those who do not know the real significance.

If we were to share the cross of Christ, what is it that we will say? How does the cross influence us in our thinking, living and sharing Christ? Why is the cross, an instrument of punishment, central in the Christian faith?

Oh the cross in gospel-sharing!

In Galatians 3:1-3, Paul expresses his astonished anger and accuses the Galatians of being foolish and lacking in nous, intelligence. The Galatians seemed to be ‘bewitched’ with their distortion of the Gospel, which is incompatible with what Paul (and Barnabas) have been preaching them. The main reason for Paul’s indignation is that the Galatians, having begun their Christian life by faith in Christ crucified, they are now trying to do so by their own achievement. This may suggest that even when we preach the cross accurately, our hearers may get it right at first but may wander (like the Galatians) off the mark.

Just as Paul publicly portrayed Jesus Christ before the eyes of the Galatians, we are to proclaim the cross visually. Like Jesus who uses picture language (Mark 8:34), we could present the cross not only as a present reality but also a permanent one too. This idea is a refreshing one as we share Christ with pre-believers. Presenting Christ visually stems from Paul’s ‘as I have already written’ (Eph 3:3) where ‘write’ is used to mean ‘draw’ or ‘paint. This is done in order to make them see what we are talking about. We can present Christ visually in the telling/sharing of our story of how He saved us and in doing so, turn people’s ears into eyes. 

Oh yes! That’s God working!

Proclaiming Christ visually could also involve sharing Christ through our lives and stepping out in love where we are. Another example is where missionaries, for example, Ronny Heyboer and the locals, went out to remote villages in Borneo and shared Christ. A couple spent time and shared Christ in one village, Labang which belongs to the Randuk tribe on the Kayan river, and 90% have come to receive Christ.

Another point on gospel-sharing involves the cross as the object of personal faith. The cross is not meant for us to gape at but to put our trust in Him. Our prayer then is
Help us, dear Lord, to continue to put our trust in you and to be aware of the subtle ‘glories’ in money, power, the number of converts etc; instead, to glory (boast) only in the cross of Christ (Gal 6:14).  

That the cross is a powerful symbol is recognised even by non-believers. Perhaps, the air-hostess was summoned to court for wearing the cross as an accessory could indicate that the world recognises the power and pervasive influence of the cross. The cross is central in proclaiming Christ.

Oh, what is the cross to you?


Deaconess Dr Vivien Ler