Several years ago I picked up a copy of the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ magazine, The Watchtower.
(I’m still not sure why I did this. For reasons I won’t go into here, I generally avoid this publication.)
This particular edition had an article about the cross, which, the writer insisted, is an inappropriate devotional symbol. He had several reasons for saying so, but one of his arguments jumped off the page at me.
He wrote, “Hanging a cross on the wall to remember Jesus’ death would be like hanging a gun on the wall which was used to kill your mother!”
Now that’s an image!
It’s disturbing. It’s disgusting. In fact, it’s a revolting image!
It’s also a very good point.
We do not put crosses on the wall to remind us of “Christian values” or “spiritual truths.” We display them to remind ourselves what Jesus went through. We display them to remind ourselves what it has cost God to be “for us.”
But there is more to it than that.
I am suggesting that it is this “more” which it really disturbing, really disgusting, really revolting…, and which is the real point of all of this.
In order to make the story work, in order for the gun hanging on the wall have the impact it needs to have, we have to add one more detail:
We were the ones who pulled the trigger.
Now that gun is doing more than reminding us of our mother’s death. Now it is showing us the lengths to which we will go in order to have our own way. Now it is a constant reminder, not of our mother’s love for us, but how far we have run away from the love she had for us.
That is the point of the cross. We put Jesus there. We drove those nails through his wrists and ankles. We stood around and made jokes, or blamed him for being our victim, or casually threw dice to see who would get his robe.
The cross is not so much a reminder of God’s love for us, as it is a reminder of how far we have run away from that love. It is a statement of how far we have gone, and continue to go, in order to have our own way, to be in charge, to have no one else to whom we must give an answer.
Ultimately, the cross is a proclamation, to us, of what we were doing on Good Friday.
It really sucks.
But it’s supposed to.