I heard an interview on the radio with the lucky winner of a backstage “party pass” to a concert. The name of the group, or of the winner, isn’t really important in our context, so I’ll omit them here to protect the innocent. What caught my attention was a business transaction between the winner and the group’s lead singer at the pre-concert party.
The winner was wearing a silver cross necklace that caught the lead singer’s eye. He was quite vocal in his admiration of the cross, to the point that he finally offered to buy the cross from the young lady. He asked her to “name her price,” and she responded with a figure of $50, over twice what she had paid for the cross a few weeks before. The star pulled out a fifty-dollar bill, closed the deal, and proudly wore his new acquisition on stage during the concert. The girl was thrilled—not only did she make a substantial profit, but she was able to see one of her idols wearing a piece of her jewelry on stage.
In this case, the cross was just a piece of jewelry. There was no indication at all that the cross meant anything to either party beyond its appearance and value as jewelry. It was just a trinket, one that will probably be filed away with thousands of other trinkets in the star’s collection. Acquiring the cross made no real difference in the lifestyle of the musician, it was just a pretty piece of silver that he thought would look good on him. Selling the cross made no real difference in the girl’s life; she made a few bucks, got a thrill during the concert, and has now moved on to some other focal point.
The situation reminds me of a lot of church-going folks I’ve seen. They “go to church,” carry Bibles, even sing the songs and say the right things—but the cross isn’t particularly meaningful to them. It looks nice, and they don’t mind it as long as it doesn’t interfere with their life. If someone offers an easy alternative, they don’t mind making a deal, particularly if it’s profitable—after all, it’s only relevant one day a week, and they can always “go to church” again next Sunday. The cross hasn’t really made any difference in their lives, so they don’t take it all that seriously. Every Sunday, our church pews are filled with these folks, “going to church,” but not really going anywhere.
To a person who has a real relationship with Jesus Christ, the cross is much more significant. If it’s a cross-shaped piece of jewelry, it’s still just jewelry—but, it reminds that person of the great sacrifice that was made on the cross on their behalf. If someone admired that jewelry, the wearer would be more interested in seeing the questioner meet Jesus than in seeing them wearing the jewelry. The cross is embedded in their soul, and has a value that is greater to them than life itself. No amount of money could persuade them to give up the assurance, security, and peace that accompany their faith in Christ. They have, as Christ Himself advised, “taken up their cross” and followed Jesus (Matthew 16:24). They are not cross wearers, they are cross bearers.
Sadly, there are many more cross wearers than cross bearers in our world. I’ts not my intent here to be offensive, but simply to state the truth that we all know in our hearts. It’s easy to be a Christian when you’re in the pew on Sunday morning. It’s a lot more challenging at the office on Monday, or hanging out with the guys on Thursday. It’s undoubtedly easier to wear the cross than to bear the cross, easier to talk about Christ than to live for Christ, easier to compromise than to hold your ground and live in Godly integrity. It’s easier, but it’s not very satisfying. I’ve lived on both sides of that fence, and I’d rather be a cross bearer than a cross wearer any day.
As far as I’m concerned, the cross isn’t for sale. None of us could afford it anyway—Jesus paid for it with His own blood, and there’s not enough wealth in the whole earth to outbid Him. I guess that’s why He paid for it—because He knew that, even at our very best, we couldn’t even come close.