Christianity is finding itself in the news lately with recent episodes of persecution, harassment, and even violence and brutality inflicted upon its people.
Just this morning I read about the crackdown on Christian churches in China. Churches have been burnt down; other churches have organized round-the-clock look-out teams for the arrival of demolition crews who want to remove the very distinctive Christian symbol – the cross. It seems like the Chinese government that does not recognizes human rights has demolished 100 churches on the grounds of zoning regulations; other church buildings have been targeted for the removal of their cross. It’s hard for us to picture when a crane and people with a blowtorch begin to cut down the cross that stands on top of your church.
Such actions harken us back to the passage from Paul in 1 Corinthians 1:18 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. From this passage many sermons and even books have been written about being a “fool for Christ”. Certainly to the early Christians and the world they lived in the cross became a strange symbol for what religion proclaims an instrument of death as a symbol of their faith. Of course, early Christians were looked at as fools, and from those looking on to us today, we may fall into the same category.
You can wear a cross around your neck, as I often see, that remains a popular piece of jewelry. Even Tiffany has designed a beautiful cross you can purchase at the Metropolitan Museum of Art right here in New York. Of course, we have our own ways of domesticating symbols by putting flowers on them or making the cross look more palatable for an evening out on the town.
In the end, the cross is a critique of the world. Of those who would put innocent people to death, of those who would crush good into the bureaucratic machinery of this world that pushes people to the side in the name of so-called progress. For the Christian it is a constant reminder of God’s identification with human pain and suffering. For some it is simply foolishness, but for us it is a statement ultimately of love.