Perusing a Christian bookstore today I noticed the many renderings of the cross hanging on walls, in paintings and in trinket items like keychains and charms. The wall hangings were beautiful. Then it hit me. When did torture became art?
The cross of Jesus Christ is an ugly thing. But we’ve turned it into something beautiful. The creation of cross imagery, I think, blends the horror of the cross with the beauty of what the cross did—making forgiveness possible. But it’s the horror part that gets my attention. Think about it this way, who would want to hang a picture of an electric chair on their wall, or perhaps a neck in a noose?
The beautifying of the cross has legitimate expression. Without the cross of Jesus all of mankind would be doomed for an eternity in hell. It is only the cross of Jesus that makes salvation possible. In this way I see these artistic expressions as a way of communicating the wonderful thing that Jesus did on our behalf. The cross shape is always present and it also reminds us of Jesus’ suffering and cruelty he was exposed to in his six hours on that torturous, horrible device.
I wonder if our beautifying of the cross desensitizes us to the reality of what Jesus suffered. It is an irony that we take something so terrible and make it into a charm we hang around the neck. The cross is cruel, the cross is offensive, the cross is one of the most torturous and inhumane ways to die ever conceived by man. Yet we turn it into art.
How many people buy a cross on a necklace and really understand what they are adorning themselves with? By taking the cross and making it part of our attire, are you not identifying with it in someway, whether in our guilt or our ignorance?
When I was younger I wanted to wear a symbol of Jesus suffering, but the cross seemed too common for me. Isn’t that also ironic, the cross has become so common that most forget its true meaning? I didn’t want a cross so I hung a large nail around my neck. Everywhere I went I got looks. Who wears a nail around their neck? Yet the nail, to me, represented Jesus’ suffering. It wasn’t pretty or polished. It wasn’t attractive or cool. It was just a big nail. It was weird, but it invited inquiry.
What does the cross of Jesus mean to you? To me it represents injustice, the innocent suffering at the hands of the guilty. It represents pain, suffering, corruption. It represents every ugly thing about human nature. The cross isn’t pretty, or fun, or lucky. But it is necessary. In this way I think the most beautiful cross there ever was, was the one on which Jesus actually hung. Every other cross pales in comparison, no matter how polished.