Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Do You Wear A Cross?

Dear Friends,

A few years ago, Rhianna and I took her mom to Solvang for her mom’s birthday. There are a handful of stores we always visit in that quaint little Danish town and one of our favorites is the one with all the cuckoo clocks and jewelry. We’ve made a few purchases of jewelry from this store over the years, and Rhianna's mom has added some of their expensive cuckoo clocks to her collection. This would be the first time we'd been in the store since the original owners had recently sold it. But we stopped in front of the store, looked at the window display, looked back at each other, and were stunned. (See photo) It was a statue of a cross with a demonic-looking, dragon-like creature clinging to it. Talons digging into the cross. Tail wrapped around it. Black wings enfolding it as if territorially proclaiming possession over it. Eyes flashing. The artist’s depiction of evil triumphing and claiming victory over the cross of Christ. If you know Rhianna, you know she’s a shy introvert who will walk a mile out of her way to avoid a confrontation. But she walked into the store and politely told the salesperson she would like to see the owner. He began to give her an excuse and she told him "Now." He took one look at her face, saw that the polite smile hadn't quite reached her eyes and he quickly scurried off to fetch the owner. 

She was extraordinarily nice, polite, firm, and articulate. She told the new owner how much we loved his store but that the statue in the window would be offensive and upsetting to Christians who love the cross and what it represents. The owner told her that he was sorry if it did but that he didn’t see anything wrong with the statue. As the conversation continued, it soon became clear that the atheist owner and his husband/business partner liked the symbolism of evil prevailing over the cross of Christ. We no longer shop in this store.

I wear a cross that my father gave me many decades ago. It’s made from iron horseshoe nails and large enough that people can’t miss it. It’s inspired many wonderful conversations about faith but lately it’s triggered hatred. We entered a Tuesday Morning store and were cheerfully greeted by the 20-something transgender clerk. She had a woman’s voice but her outward appearance was female/ male. When we were ready to check out, I found the clerk stocking shelves and let her know we were ready. She politely apologized for keeping us waiting but as she turned and looked at me, her face hardened when she saw my cross and she glared at me. We were polite to her and she was rude, insulting and sarcastic to us during the checkout process. The people of the cross are the people she hates. 

I used to shop at Trader Joe’s in Granada Hills. But there were times that the millennial generation clerks were warm, friendly and helpful and times that they were openly hostile. I puzzled about this until I noticed that sometimes it was the same clerks that treated me nicely one time and rudely the next, and I came to realize that my treatment at Trader Joe’s depended on if my cross was visible or if a jacket was covering it up. A millennial friend of mine told me he keeps his Christian faith a secret because nearly all in his generation “hate Christians.” I definitely saw that at Trader Joe’s. The cross that symbolized my Christian faith was offensive.

But before I get too upset about this, I need to  remember that nothing’s changed from 2,000 years ago. “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” 1 Corinthians 1:18 That word translated as foolishness is the Greek word “moria”- a strong word meaning that something is “worthy of scorn.” The Gospel message then and now is scorned and hated by those unbelievers who are “headed for destruction” as the NLT translates it. But to you and me, the message of the cross is the good news of the saving power of God. I wear my cross not to flaunt my faith but because there is nothing more important to me personally than the message of the cross. My faith is intrinsic to who I am and my cross reminds me that we are all ambassadors of the Kingdom of God. It reminds me that I need to not just believe like a Christian but to behave like a Christian. And then, when my words or attitude to others are unchristlike, my cross convicts me and brings instant repentance.

Franklin Graham said that Christians in the United States are not far from seeing a high level of violent persecution because of their faith and we’re seeing today’s liberal “cancel culture” attacking Christians who have experienced lost jobs, harassment, physical beatings and death threats for no other reason than being a follower of Jesus Christ. The culture and Marxist politics of “woke” progressive liberalism promote the hatred of Christians and Black Lives Matter protesters have been destroying statues of Jesus and firebombing our Nation’s churches. I know Christians who have fearfully pried the ICHTHYS (fish symbol) off the SUV and put their cross back in the jewelry box. Many are afraid or are uncomfortable with the hatred and rudeness from progressive liberals (what I’ve experienced at Trader Joe’s) and are hiding their Christian symbols. Some deny their faith like Peter, Luke 22:54-62 and they may want to read the words of Jesus: “Everyone who denies me here on earth, I will also deny before my Father in heaven.” Matthew 10:33
I won’t receive heavenly “points” for wearing my cross, but if the reason for not wearing one is that I’m ashamed to do so, then I am in trouble. “For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.” Mark 8:38 And so...that’s why I wear a cross.

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