ASK THE PASTOR: A Cross on Our Wall

In this “Ask the Pastor” post, I’m going to respond to the following question recently sent to me:

 We use crosses in our home decor and fashion accessories. Should we be at all concerned about crossing the line of the second commandment: “You must not make a carved image for yourself”? We don’t worship these things; they are just reminders of the sacrifice that Jesus made. Where do we draw the line though?

Excellent question! The second commandment is found in Exodus 20:4-6 —

You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.

As I begin this response, I think it safe to assume that most of us would fit into the category described by the beginning of the question. We have crosses on the walls of our homes. We have crosses on our cars. We wear crosses as jewelry, on necklaces, bracelets, wristbands, and earrings. Crosses appear on our t-shirts, bumper stickers, and Bible covers. How are we to think about these things in light of the second commandment?

I appreciate the sensitivity of the one asking the question. I wholeheartedly affirm that the bottom line regarding these things is this: we don’t worship these things. Biblically I see no prohibition regarding the utilization of the cross in any of the previously mentioned settings. For centuries Christian churches have placed crosses atop steeples. As I write this post, I am reminded that in our church we have a cross on the wall directly above our baptistry as well as on the front of the pulpit. Christians have not placed the cross atop of churches to say, “Come to this building where we worship a symbol of man-made execution,” we have done so to say, “This place is dedicated to the worship of the One who died and rose again that we might live. His name is Jesus Christ.”

I think we need to be aware of a couple of potential dangers as we think about this issue. One, we are prone to be idolaters, and the essence of idolatry is self-worship. We worship something  we, or another human being, have created. If the crosses we place on our walls or wear around our necks move into this category for us, we have indeed violated the second commandment. Two, if the placing of the cross on the wall or around our neck is done with the view that the object itself carries some sort of special power–in effect serving as a type of talisman–then we again have made of this object an idol.

The conclusion of this matter is found in God’s statement to Moses, and to us, through this important commandment. Our great God is a jealous God. Our relationship with Him is a covenant of great significance…even greater significance than the marriage covenants into which we enter. To place any object, a cross, a table, a golden statue of a calf, in place of God within our relationship constitutes a spiritual adultery which most certainly is sin.


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