I have one in my study. I look at it many times a day. It helps me pray, show gratitude, and stay focused. I asked as a boy why our cross was empty and the Catholics had Jesus on it. I was told that we believed in the resurrection. (Hmm. So did they). Paul believed in the resurrection. He also said, “I have determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (I Cor. 2:2). Why?
IT IS THE CENTER OF THE GOSPEL.
“For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (I Cor. 1:18). “And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8).
I DIED WITH CHRIST.
Christ not only died for me; he died with me. Paul wrote, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in thee Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). “And those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Galatians 5:24). “We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be done away with, that we would no longer be enslaved to sin” (Romans 6:6).
I AM TO DIE DAILY.
Paul said, “I die every day” (I Cor. 15:31). Many think that death is a once-for-all experience at the cross. I had expectations going into marriage that didn’t help me a bit, expectations of what Karen would do for me. I now tell young couples heading into marriage, “Write down your expectations, then burn them.” Expectations create entitlement. As one person said, “They are resentments in the making.” Marriages are filled with victims who have unwritten hopes pinned on their spouse that remain unfulfilled. They are like demands with words written on them, “Pay up.” And they are giving their spouse the power to make them miserable, a right we should never give to another human being. When I gave up my expectations and instead died to myself as Christ did for his Bride (Ephesians 5:25), our marriage grew stronger. I told my sons, “Never use the “s” word–’submit.’ Die instead!” It works. Dying to ourselves and serving others demonstrates love–as Christ did.
When I look at the cross, it not only reminds me what Christ did for me, evoking thanksgiving, but it reminds me what I am called to do every day, evoking commitment. Jesus didn’t die so I could have an easy life. He died so I could suffer well. Peter wrote, “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps…He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness” (I Peter 2:21,24). I am looking at the crucifix now as I write this. It gives me love for the unparalleled work of Christ on the cross. It also gives me courage–to die!