Two others, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left.

Luke 23:32-33 ESV

Consider the following:

Modern day cross: A decoration to be worn on a necklace, bracelet or T-shirt, hung on a wall, or placed on a bumper sticker, etc.

First Century cross: An instrument of extreme and violent capital punishment reserved for the worst of society’s criminals. A method of execution invented by the Persians and perfected by the Romans.

Crucifixion was so horrific that we actually have a word, excruciating (literally, “from the cross”), that describes pain so agonizing it must be associated with the worst of deaths.

Why then, would Christians choose an emblem of such detest and embarrassing public defeat to represent themselves?

Because as Jesus hung on the cross in defeat, he was actually winning our ultimate victory. Jesus allowed his body to be broken and abused in the most unbearable way, and just when it looked as if Satan had won, the Father “raised [Jesus] up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by [death]” (Acts 2:24).

The cross symbolizes Jesus’ victory over hell even from the dust of defeat. The worst that this world can hold for any person, Jesus faced, once and for all, and rose in perfection and ultimate victory.

This is what the cross means. It is so much more than an iconic piece of jewelry or decoration for our living rooms.

It represents Jesus’ defeat of the hate, malice, rebellion and sin that our Enemy is enthroned upon and that lurks even in our hearts. When you next see a cross, do two things:

  1. Remember what it really represents,
  2. Make sure that others understand it as well (but do so in love).

While we don’t need to go on a crusade against people wearing crosses, we do need to hold in mind the reality the cross represents.