Exhortations

The Cross

The Cross – is a Symbol of Christianity.

We have learned from the ancient history of the Roman Empire that they hung on the Cross the slaves who ran away from their enslavers; the convicted criminals, including the rebels against the empire, carry their crosses to the place where they will be crucified. So, the Cross is a symbol of the Roman atrocities, and why Christians made it a symbol is beyond my knowledge.

If we are not careful about how we treat the image of the Cross, we may fall under the sin of idolatry. For example, making signs of the Cross, kissing a cross pendant, and the rosary; we even have all kinds of cross jewelry. If these are only to have an identity as Christians, then it could be considered a decoration, not a representation of God. We honor the Son for his victory in defeating death. We believe that he is sitting at the right hand of the Father. The Christian symbols or manufactured images sometimes remove the focus of the proper way of worship.

Many symbols of Christianity existed before the Cross, like the Good Shepherd, Dove, Anchor, Shamrock, Lily crucifix, Ichthys, and many more, and they are usually carved either in wood or stone. Faithful believers must not worship manufactured images according to the scripture. “Thou shalt not make thyself a graven thing, nor the likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or the earth beneath, nor of those things that are in the waters …” Exodus 20:4; Matthew 4:10, Luke 4:8

The Cross without the image of Jesus represents that Jesus has been raised. Most Christian institutional churches display wooden crosses; some are gold, some are dark brown, and some are even painted black, depending on how the leadership feels more comfortable. I experienced one time when I painted the Cross black, and one of the elders wanted it to change to a gold color, so I did. I was not a Bishop then until I discovered she feared black paint. The Catholics maintained Jesus on the Cross; others didn’t have an image, just an altar, a symbol for offerings.

Take your Cross or carry your crosses. These are dealing with burdens and problems, trials and challenges, and the ups and downs of life. Why will you need a cross if it only gives you so much pain and suffering? To avoid the fear this would bring, we can walk away and choose not to be Christian. If someone feels this way, your vulnerability to being deceived by false doctrine will be easy.

These are a misinterpretation of what Jesus said in Matthew 16:24—let’s begin with what Jesus didn’t mean. “Take up your cross and follow me.” During the time of Jesus, people were burdened with the cruelty of the Romans; they had special treatment only for Roman citizens. Cross those days meant the most painful and humiliating death and burden that they face when the miscarriage of justice takes place, like what they did to Jesus. They thought Jesus was a menace to the empire and accused him wrongfully, leading to the Cross.

As generations passed by thousands of years later, Christian’s perception of the Cross symbolizes saving grace, a gift of salvation, and unconditional love. The teachings of forgiveness must outweigh more than the offense or sin against you. After many years after the Cross, people started taking tiny pieces of the wooden Cross used to crucify Jesus. People keep the piece for themselves; some make it a business and sell it. Maybe this idea of the Cross begins and will be more commercialized from then on. The Cross represented nothing at that time but death to convicted criminals. Carry the Cross along the way and die at the end of their journey.

“Take up your cross and follow Me” Matthew 16:24-26

“Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself, take up his Cross, and follow me. Whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. What will profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?”

He is strengthening the faith and lifting hopes that anything can be achieved with the help of the Holy Spirit because nothing is impossible when God is involved. We are the over-comers and not the underachievers. We have to stay to the truth and let go of fear. Whatever you receive from the Holy Spirit is good, and it is from God, and the good news is yours to keep, so use it for His glory. “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.”—John 16:13

You may have many crosses with different looks and adorn yourself with them, but what good does it give you when you don’t have God with you? Prophet Jeremiah said, Thus says the Lord: “Learn not the way of the nations, nor be dismayed at the signs of the heavens because the nations are dismayed at them, for the customs of the peoples are vanity… Their idols are like scarecrows in a cucumber field. Do not be afraid of them, for they cannot do evil, neither is it in them to do good.”— 10:1-5 ESV.

Jesus said in Mark 7:13-“Thus you nullify the word of God by the tradition you have handed down. And you do so in many such matters.”  Matthew 15:9. “But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.”

Make your dreams to be an inspiration and ignore the distractions when you fail. Patience is a virtue, and our faith to move on and succeed is much bigger than failure. Just remember to ask yourself, “Why do we have to break the commandment of God for the sake of our tradition that was passed unto us without a clear explanation?

God is all in all.

Bishop Joseph

Bishop Joseph Vitug, Ph.D. - Bishop Emeritus

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