I’m always so amazed–although I shouldn’t be–when people are so offended both by the preaching of the cross and even by the symbol of the cross. We just passed the 10th anniversary of the fateful day of 9-11-2001, when our country suffered a terrorist attack that left thousands dead and landscape and businesses and families devastated. And, if it hadn’t been for the heroics of the passengers and crew of United Airlines flight 93 who sacrificed their lives, there would have undoubtedly been many hundreds more who would have been killed. In the aftermath, millions of Americans packed out churches seeking understanding, seeking guidance, seeking comfort, seeking God. People from all around the world cried with us and gathered to pray for us.
On that terrible day, it quickly became clear that we had a very real enemy–one we had hardly focused on before, one that hates our Western culture, and especially one which hates the Judeo-Christian roots that grew this country. And the war on terror began. What we couldn’t imagine on that terrible day was that ten years later we would be under pressure from radical Islam in our own courts, our legislature and our media. We couldn’t imagine on 9/11/01 that we would be asked to act as if we were the villains, and to hide our Judeo-Christian faith, and even to apologize for our American way of life! And most of all, we couldn’t imagine that some Americans would actually be taken in by radical Islam’s legal-propaganda machine, or that atheists and other enemies of Christian faith and freedom would join forces with them to try to obliterate expressions of our faith! But that is exactly where we are today.
After the Twin Towers collapsed to rubble rescue workers found two steel beams in the shape of a giant cross and took inspiration and comfort from the symbol of the Christian faith and an indication to them that the risen Savior is there for us and with us always, whether we are on top of the world celebrating the joy of life with family and friends or–even more importantly–when our whole world blows up, when we feel alone and abandoned and when we think there is no hope and nowhere to turn.
Now a museum at Ground Zero is slated to exhibit this cross. The leader of American Atheists, in his blog, sneered that Christians “have deified this piece of rubble because it looks like their symbol.” In fact, the American Atheist group has sued to remove it. They claim emotional and even physical damage from the very sight of it! They claim “depression, headaches, anxiety, and mental pain and anguish.” They don’t mention the grief and anguish caused by the devastating destruction caused by the terrorists on 9/11. They are more focused on what they call “a direct and proximate result of the unconstitutional existence of the cross.”
In the past decade there have been numerous attempts by anti-Christian groups to have crosses removed all across our nation–even the roadside crosses that represent the tragic loss of lives through vehicle accidents. Isn’t it interesting that these complaints most often come from those who claim they don’t even believe our God exists. So why are they so bothered by and threatened by the mere symbol of our faith? Scripture has the answer. The Apostle Paul wrote this to the Corinthian church: “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish, foolishness, but unto us which are saved, it is the power of God” (I Cor. 1:18 KJV). To the churches in Galatia, he wrote: “And I, brethren, if I yet preach circumcision, why do I yet suffer persecution? then is the offence of the cross ceased” (Gal. 5:11 KJV). The cross is profoundly offensive to the natural man, for it brands him as a hell-deserving sinner. It makes his only hope of salvation a humiliating acknowledgment of Christ, the rejected Creator as his personal Savior, who died for his sins. This is offensive to his self-righteousness, so that he not only rejects God’s way of salvation, but seeks to persecute those who proclaim it. But, it is especially sad when professing Christians seek to escape this offence of the cross by accommodating their preaching of the cross to the opinions of those who reject it, such as the legalistic Galatians who were insisting that Christians converts from paganism be circumcised to avoid offending the Jews.
In contrast to those who are offended by the cross and the preaching of the cross (salvation through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ), listen to what Paul wrote later in the book of Galatians: “But may it never be that I should boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Gal. 6:14). When Jesus rode into Jerusalem on what we call “Palm Sunday,” He indicated that “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified” (Jn. 12:23) indicating that He would soon fulfill the mission for which He came to earth and that was to become the full and final sacrifice for sin as “The Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world” (Jn. 1:29). Then Jesus indicated how He would die for sin, saying, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men (Jew and Gentile) to Myself” (indicating the kind of death by which He was to die)” (Jn. 12:32,33).
The cross was where God’s justice and mercy met, as He poured out His judgment on His own Son for our sin so that He could extend the offer of forgiveness and eternal life to all who would put their whole trust in Jesus’ sacrifice as full payment for their sin. But to do so is to first admit that you are a sinner, and that there is nothing you can do or be to earn or merit salvation on your own, and many–the majority–are not willing to do that, so the cross becomes a “stumbling block” (Gal. 5:11 NASB) to them. But to us who are saved, “it is the power of God” (I Cor. 1:18).
Praise God for the cross, oh, not the crossbeams of wood on which Jesus was crucified, or the steel beams that remained in the rubble of the World Trade Center, but for the sacrifice for our sins accomplished by the Creator of the universe, God in the flesh.