I had a chat with my colleague today, but I couldn’t explain things properly. So I’m sad.
She goes to church, and so I told her cross-reverence is idolatry. Then she asked me how the cross can be an idol when it’s just a symbol of the church. I wanted to tell her in detail but I couldn’t remember any. Could you please tell me again why the cross is an idol?
Sure. Shall we read the Ten Commandments first?
“You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them …”
Did God say it’s okay to make an idol in the form of something as far as you do not bow down to it or worship it?
No. God asked us not to make it.
God does not want us to make anything to liken Him to it. The cross is no exception. It violates the words, “Do not make it or worship it.”
Oh, that reminds me of something. Whenever my colleague prayed, she always lowered her head a little in front of the cross on her desk.
Even though they say the cross is only a symbol, they can’t help depending on it and adding a special meaning to it. God knows that, and that’s why God urged people not to make anything from the first. God strictly forbid such an act many times.
“Do not make idols or set up an image or a sacred stone for yourselves, and do not place a carved stone in your land to bow down before it. I am the LORD your God.”
Here as well, God commanded us not to make idols and bow down before them, right? Such acts are not for God but for man’s self-satisfaction.
What does an image or a sacred stone or a carved stone indicate?
When you see other translations, for example, New Living Translation, it’s clearer. It says, “Do not set up carved images, or sacred pillars, or sculptured stones.” So all the shapes made of wood or stone or whatever materials to worship are to be considered as idols.
Then, the cross is also a shape made of materials like wood or metal.
There’s more. Making a certain image and adding some religious meanings to it is a pagan custom, not Christian’s.
“This is what the LORD says: ‘Do not learn the ways of the nations … For the customs of the peoples are worthless; they cut a tree out of the forest, and a craftsman shapes it with his chisel. They adorn it with silver and gold; they fasten it with hammer and nails so it will not totter. Like a scarecrow in a melon patch, their idols cannot speak; they must be carried because they cannot walk. Do not fear them; they can do no harm nor can they do any good.’”
Things made by humans are like a scarecrow that cannot affect us, no matter how credible they may look. Nonetheless, so many people wear crosses or put them in their cars like talismans and think, “The cross will protect me from danger.”
Did you say setting up an image is from a pagan custom? Then, was there no cross in the early Church established by Jesus?
Of course not! The early Church’s perspective on the cross was completely different. At that time, they regarded the cross as a terrible object, let alone a symbol of the church.
“The public use of the cross was adopted by the Christians as a symbol at the time of Constantine. For the early Christians, surrounded by crucifixion as a grim fact of common experience, there was no danger of beautifying the cross by sentiment”
Baker’s Dictionary of Theology, p. 152
You mean people like Peter and Paul did not like the cross at all, right? Then I think we should have the same attitude.
You’re right. The image that was considered as grim is now beautified to become the symbol of Christianity and even regarded as something holy. When we think about it, it’s actually something we should lament.
What will happen to people who go to church but ignore such words in the Bible and keep worshiping idols like the cross?
God already warned the result of worshiping idols.
“‘Cursed is the man who carves an image or casts an idol—a thing detestable to the LORD, the work of the craftsman’s hands—and sets it up in secret.’ Then all the people shall say, ‘Amen!’”
They cannot expect to receive blessings while doing a thing detestable to God, can they? If they truly love God, they must not do whatever is forbidden by God.
I can clearly understand God’s teachings. I’ll tell this to my colleague tomorrow!
I’m glad this helps. I hope you can explain it well to her!