We see the cross in churches and steeples, hanging in homes and, worn around the necks of many Christians; however, many don’t know what the cross means. There is also much debate as to whether or not it is appropriate – or even sinful – to wear religious jewelry like crosses and crucifixes. In order to understand whether or not it is ok for Christians to wear the cross, we have to understand the history of the cross and what the cross really means, particularly in our own lives.
Christians did not begin wearing the cross around their necks until after the crucifixion was no longer the primary source of capital punishment; therefore, it is not equivalent to a modern-day person wearing a miniature death symbol as some have suggested. Many look at the cross as simply the instrument of death used to slay our beloved Savior, Jesus Christ. Because it was God’s Will, Jesus willingly went to the cross, taking upon Himself the sins of the world, cleansing those who believe in Him of their own sins.
The cross shows the depth of our sins. We don’t realize what sin is in the sight of God, how deeply it offends Him and how it separates us from Him. Before Jesus went to the cross, He prayed in Gethsemane. At this time, Jesus was agonizing and sorrowful. He prayed to God, “If it is possible, let this cup pass from Me nevertheless, not as I will but as You will” (Matthew 26:39). He looked into the cup and saw the sins of the whole world. The cross is pardon; it’s a reprieve of death for people who don’t deserve it.
None of us deserves to be saved. None of us deserves to go to Heaven. But God is love (1 John 4:8) and God is grace and mercy. Grace means something that you don’t deserve, but God gives you. God offers you pardon and forgiveness. He offers you assurance of heaven if you die. The Bible tells us, “God commanded His love towards us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). We are called as believers of the cross to spread that message of the Gospel to those around us; however, many have lost touch with the meaning of the cross.
The only reason Scripture would forbid wearing religious jewelry, like a cross or crucifix, would be if the object became an idol used for worship or if the wearer were consumed with how the jewelry made them look. The Bible tells us, “Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry” (1 Corinthians 10:14). The Bible also tells us, “Do not let your adorning be external – the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear…” (1 Peter 3:3). Many people wear religious jewelry as a fashion piece without concern for its symbolism or a desire to represent Christ. But that doesn’t mean that Christians can’t or shouldn’t wear them. Many Christians wear crosses as a proud expression of their love, respect and service to Christ, along with a remembrance of what He did for us.
Another concern is when people allow objects such as crosses, crucifixes, figurines, rosaries, bumper stickers, etc., to take the place of true change that should take place in our hearts. While wearing the cross can be viewed as a form of love, dedication and discipleship, the things we wear, carry, or put on our cars are not what make us Christians.
God is not concerned with what we wear as long as we do not dress in a way that could cause us to stumble in our walk with God and we are not absorbed with our looks or our possessions.
God is searching out our hearts to find who is faithful and whether we encourage and show love to others. It is not for any of us to judge whether wearing religious jewelry is proper or not; every Christian has to seek God’s approval in all He does.
The crucifix, for Catholics in particular, is a powerful symbol that represents that Jesus died on the cross to redeem humanity. The image of Christ’s body on the cross is used to represent His sacrifice. Many Christian denominations use a bare cross to emphasize Jesus’ resurrection. God didn’t save us to be passive spectators. He saved us to send us out into the world to tell other people about Jesus. Each of us is called to play a part in God’s mission to save sinners – the same sinners we meet on a daily basis. Whether we choose to wear religious jewelry or not, the cross is a reminder of Jesus’ love for us. Wake up and join in Jesus’ work of redeeming the world by joining His revolution and reminding others of the cross daily, not only in what you say but how you live.