Or think of a glamourous woman in heels and an elegant dress with a diamond-encrusted chainsaw dangling from a garrotte hanging around her neck.
Now, imagine that same woman in the same dress wearing a simple gold cross on a gold chain. We would either admire her excellent taste or overlook her necklace altogether.
I think we’d notice the chainsaw.
My question is, what’s the difference? The cross, any way you look at it, was an instrument of torture–a way for the Romans, among others, to reward criminals with the most ghastly and excruciating death imaginable. It was hideous in its simplicity and fail-safe in its reliability. So how did it become jewelry?
I have seen the cross kissed by clerics and pilgrims. I have seen it dangling or tattooed in places that should not be seen at all. I have seen it spray painted on walls and fences by iconographically inclined vandals. I have seen it beautifully crafted in precious metals and gems and sold for obscene sums.
The cross is revered by Christians for what happened there–not on any cross, but on one particular cross on one particular day. God in flesh, the sinless Lord of Glory, bled and died there to pay for the sins of the very people who hung him on it. It was there He became “…the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1 Joh 2.2, ESV)
I have no idea why a non-believer would wear a cross, but a few possibilities come to mind. First, there may lurk in this person’s heart the delusion of belief, the supposition that spiritual life exists when it does not . It may be that the cross is thought to have some mystical power or provide safety or good luck for the wearer. In most cases, however, it appears to be a fashion statement–it looks great against a certain colour, fetching with decolletage, or irresistibly macho nestled in a wad of curly hair on a tanned chest.
The apostle Paul addressed the issue of the delusion of belief in Galatians 5.11, and spoke there of “the offence of the cross.” To people who reject the Person and work of Christ, the cross–the real cross and all it represents–will always be an offence. To those who trust Him and have appropriated the benefits of His cross work by faith, the most exquisite and costly rendering of the cross as an accessory is still demeaning.
After all, we are the real accessories. Every one of us.
When I survey the wondrous cross,
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.
Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.
Isaac Watts, 1707