Who Are We? [The Re-branding of Discipleship] E

A disciple is crucified.

And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.[a]The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 10:38–39). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?[b]The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 16:24–27). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.[c]The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ga 6:14–15). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

The cross is not symbolic.

It is popular for Christians to adopt the symbol of the cross. We put a cross on top of our church buildings. We wear it as a pendant. Some get it tattooed into their flesh. In fiction, it has power to ward off vampires. The symbol of the cross is a big money-maker. One could truthfully say that the cross is a powerful symbol.

What does it symbolize? Religious pride? Political affiliation? Societal concern? Love? Faith? Membership in the Klan? Effingham, Illinois? It ought to symbolize death. The Apostles wrote that identification with the death of Jesus Christ on the cross produces death to self.

A cross is a death machine. The cross was a mechanism used by First Century Romans to torture and execute bad guys. The condemned parties were publicly displayed while they gradually died from exhaustion, asphyxiation, or exsanguination. Crucifixion also served as a form of publicity intended to intimidate (terrorize) the enemies of the Empire. Crucifixion transformed a living person into a dead person.

The cross was not a significant symbol until the Third Century. The “crucifix” doesn’t appear until the Fifth Century[d]Brett Scott Provance, Pocket Dictionary of Liturgy & Worship, The IVP Pocket Reference Series (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2009), 45..

My church history instructor taught that Constantine was responsible for the sudden rise of the symbolic cross, related to a vision that he received at the Battle of Milvian Bridge in 312. The interpretation of the vision embraced double meanings of the symbolism, effectively merging Christianity with the idolatry of the Roman Empire. The gallows that once brought death to the opposition became a symbol that assimilated them. It became possible for a citizen to live legally as a Christian-in-name-only. Paint a cross on anything, even a pagan temple, and it becomes “Christian” without regard to the teachings and principles of Christ.

And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.[e]The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ga 5:24.

A disciple must belong to Christ Jesus, must identify with the death of Jesus Christ on the cross, must die to self.

A disciple must take up his cross to follow Jesus, lose his life to find it.

A disciple does not paint a cross on a pagan temple and call it Christian. A disciple becomes the temple of the Holy Spirit. A disciple is a transformed person.


2 replies on “Who Are We? [The Re-branding of Discipleship] E

  1. If I need to wear a cross or a t-shirt in order for others to know that I am a Christian, I’m probably doing it wrong.

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