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Tuesday, March 26, 2013
Supreme Symbol of Help and Hope (by Peter Black)
A disaster happens somewhere in the world, and it’s
likely that—where political systems allow—Red Cross personnel and vehicles,
bearing the large emblem of a red cross on a white background, are dispatched in
response, bearing emergency supplies to help people in desperate need of
life-sustaining essentials. (Of course, we acknowledge that much good work is also
contributed under the emblems of the Red Crescent and Red Crystal, among others.)
Scores of Christian-based NGOs (Non-Governmental
Organizations) are often there helping, funded by donations from people like
many of you, who embrace the message and meaning of the Cross. My niece Gillian
works for a Christian-based NGO, and recently returned from central America, where
she was involved in coordinating humanitarian projects.
Hitler’s Nazi Swastika, with its angled (let’s say, bent
and broken)arms, is perhaps the most widely reviled form of cross—the
antithesis of the Cross of Christ; not of help and hope, but of hate and
I’m glad the Cross is the supreme symbol of help and
hope in the world. Good Friday’s commemoration of the crucifixion of Jesus
Christ reminds me that out of the ugliness of crucifixion—among the most
excruciating, slow and painful forms of execution ever devised—has come
healing, help and hope to countless millions.
It is reckoned that as many as 1,000,000 crucifixions
took place throughout the provinces of the Roman Empire during the first
century AD. Intended as punishment for criminals and rebels, it also served as
a warning to others. Yet, only one crucifixion, one victim and one cross
led to the ugliness of crucifixion’s becoming this revered symbol of help and
hope. And that was when Jesus of Nazareth—the helper, the healer, the friend—died
on an old rugged cross.
Why should this stake of barbaric execution, with its
dark and bloody association with the torture of the worst of criminals, be revered
and embraced as a beloved symbol? The cross is forever beautified by the One
who hung upon it—the sinless Son of God incarnate who, through His sufferings
and death, paid the price of all humanity’s sin and rebellion and resistance to
Jesus was betrayed by a close associate, abandoned by those
of His close circle, rejected by a frenzied crowd, and mocked by bigoted
religious leaders who plotted his death, and forsaken by God His Heavenly
Father. It was all in the divine plan, predicted centuries beforehand in
various scriptures (e.g. as in Psalm 22; 41:9; Isaiah 52:13-53:12;
The Cross is offensive to some people, but it’s not so
much the symbol, as its message (see 1 Corinthians 1:18-30).
Is it offensive to your view of yourself and God? Does the biblical teaching
that we humans have so offended God that we need to be redeemed and reconciled
to Him, and forgiven and cleansed, offend you? Do you have difficulty accepting
the assertion that we can’t do it by our own effort, all by ourselves?
Cross strikes at our sense of self-sufficiency and self-dependence; knocks the
notion that self-improvement is our pathway to our ultimate destiny and
How wonderful the understanding that, since we’re
unable to atone for our own sins (faults, failings, self-willed thoughts and
actions, arising from human weakness) which separate us from a ‘right’
relationship with God, He in mercy provided the solution. In Jesus, God paid
the debt, making possible our restoration to personal relationship with Him.
The means was the Cross and the One who gave up His
life on it: “. . . God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were
still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his
blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him!” (Romans
Let us embrace more than this supreme symbol of help
and hope, and in faith embrace the Christ of the Cross who is our help and hope—our Lord and Saviour, Redeemer and Friend.
Peter A. Black is a
freelance writer in Southwestern Ontario, and is author of “Parables from the
Pond” – a children's / family book." (Finalist -- Word Alive Press
ISBN 1897373-21-X )
column, P-Pep! appears weekly in The Guide-Advocate. His articles
have appeared in 50 Plus Contact and testimony, and several
newspapers in Ontario.