They just don’t make crosses like they used to


Two thousand years ago, the Roman hand-crafted them out of real wood—rugged, solid, durable—stained with natural colors. Awe and respect were felt for the manufacturers of these creations.

But like many products, most crosses today are machine-made and mass-produced by managers who look only at the bottom line of numbers and dollars. Solid, rough wood has been replaced by polished veneer in walnut, oak or cherry—coordinated of course, to match the padded pews.

For a more contemporary look, there are polished aluminum, Plexiglass, and fiberglass designs in decorator colors. Who can forget the plastic glow-in-the-dark crosses awarded for Sunday school promotions?

Even mail-order jewelry catalogs features “dignified yet richly designed in 24k gold-filled or sterling silver, with matching venetian box link chains. Perfect for baptisms, communion, or wedding gift.” One offers “the tranquility of this beautiful platinum-plated cross.” Another promises “a gold electro-plated cross with a micro-dot of the entire Bible in the center so you can have the peace of God’s Word near you throughout the day.”

They just don’t make crosses like they used to.

When Christ told his disciples to take up their crosses and follow him, he wasn’t talking about 24-karat jewelry. He had in mind a rough beam, splintered and stained with sweat, blood, and drugged wine. No wonder the idea caused Peter to “rebuke” the Lord for such a statement. That’s why Paul called the cross a “stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles” (1 Corinthians 1:23).

And so the organized church began to sand off the rough, irritating edges. The old stains were stripped away. The cross needed “improved marketing” and better “packaging.” Two thousand years later, the cross has been so well “repositioned” that it’s now available in the most elegant jewelry stores and worn by the most respectable and fashionable of socialites.

But in doing so, has the cross of Christ been emptied of its power? Has this instrument of death been re-fashioned into a beautiful wall hanging or piece of costume jewelry? And have it followers also become only thin veneer? Have souls become lacquered with coats of high gloss varnish so the blood, living water, and new wine rarely penetrate the exterior?

They just don’t make crosses like they used to.

Christ is not asking us to take up a glow-in-the-dark sense of peace and security. He is not asking us to deny ourselves fifty dollars to purchase “the tranquility of this beautiful platinum-plated cross.”

Christ’s cross is heavy, rough, with the smell of blood and death. But with its weight, burdens are lifted. With its bloody stains, souls are purified. With its splinters, consciences are pricked so we might to smoothed and shaped into his likeness. This deadly device brings new life!

They do make crosses like they used in Spearfish, South Dakota.

A visitor to the famous passion play there asked to see the cross after a performance. He was shocked at the weight. “I thought it would be hollow.”

The actor portraying the Lord replied, “I must feel the weight of the cross to act like Christ.”

Maybe they do make crosses like they used to.

Copyright © 1988 James N. Watkins

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