Why the Cross?
A few months ago I was asked to be on the panel at a 'Grill a Christian' event run by a university Christian Union. Loads of people came, from a variety of faith backgrounds and asked questions about all sorts of topics and then one girl put her hand up and asked the following.
"Why do Christians wear crosses? Why is the cross the symbol of Christianity?"
It’s a question we can easily miss as we go through life, accepting the cross is the symbol of Christianity, never asking why?
The cross is the main focus for Christianity because it’s THE big thing that has happened.
It is the defining moment in human history, and everything becomes clear when viewed through the context of the cross because it is the moment when God made a way for us to know Him.
To understand why the cross is so important we have to consider the big picture of the Bible story up to this point. The story begins with God, and He is perfect. Perfectly loving, perfectly good, and perfectly holy. God created human beings to be in relationship with Him; demonstrated by Adam and Eve walking together with God in the Garden of Eden. However, being perfect, good and holy also means that God is just. This means he cannot associated with anything that is not perfect and anything that is not entirely good. Sin screwed this all up!
This three letter word, sin, was Adam and Eve’s decision to disobey God and the moment when they fell short of his perfection. Today, sin is anytime we think, say or do anything that means we fall short of God’s perfect standards. Romans 3:23 says this “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Sin is the thing that separates us from God, He cannot be associated with us because we are sinful and whereas God dwells eternally, the Bible says again and again that sin causes us all to die (e.g. James 1:15).
We can all try to live a good life, and many of us can think of ourselves as better than others, but none of us can claim to be perfect. We are all imperfect, guilty by God’s standards and deserving of separation and punishment by God’s justice.
But that is NOT the whole story, God would not leave it that way. God wanted us back!
The cross is God’s solution to the problem. The Bible narrative says that if anyone were to live a life that was perfect and they were to suffer the consequences of sin, namely death, in our place then that would act as payment for us. The only one who could live up to God’s standards was God, and therefore God sent Himself as Jesus to die for us. Christians smarter than I call this Penal Substitution. The word penal means “related to punishment for offenses,” and substitution means “the act of a person taking the place of another.” So Penal Substitution is someone taking the punishment for the offences committed by another. And in Jesus’ infinite perfection His death served as a substitute of punishment for ALL who accept it.
Peter drawing upon the prophet Isaiah writes: “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.” (1 Peter 2:24)
When the perfect, loving and just God judges us, instead of seeing us he sees Jesus. He sees Jesus’ perfection and righteousness right in front of him. The barrier between us and God is taken away when we accept and believe in Jesus for ourselves, and by God’s Spirit we can know this today. When we put our trust in Jesus, we can know that a relationship with God, is not based on our performance, but based on WHO WE ARE IN CHRIST.
The truth that we are perfect in God’s eyes can be hard to accept, and sometimes we can forget that our salvation is not down to what we do, but who we are in him. Recently I showed the following video to our youth group and like me they were blown away as they thought of God’s incredible act of love on the cross. If you can find a few minutes to spare then please watch it!