Q: We see entertainers and athletes, and many others, wearing crosses today. I am offended by much of this. Is my offense at this justified?”
A: “We are what we wear” is, as we know, an overstatement. People at times wear things while fairly oblivious to their meaning or to the message they convey. A good example of this is—as you intimate—the wearing of a cross simply because it is a catchy piece of jewelry or because it is fashionable. It would be a sad irony were an athlete to be shown on camera swearing at an official while a gold cross chain glistens from the neck. But let’s not forget that the same irony is present when a public preacher wears a cross with liturgical vestments but then does not preach Christ crucified for the sins of the world. Inconsistencies abound the world around! . . . We too, need to check what our wardrobe and jewelry and pictures in the home say about our profession of Christ, as well!
A great misuse of the cross is its being treated as a good luck charm. Even church-goers can be found guilty of this kind of superstition. The Pharisees were guilty of this when they strapped phylacteries (little boxes with Scripture verses inside) to their arms and foreheads, and revered them instead of God whose Word the boxes contained (Matt. 23:5). The same attack of Martin Luther on the Roman relics applies to “luck-seeking” cross wearers today: “All these relics are lifeless objects that can satisfy no one. God’s Word, however, is the treasure that sanctifies everything.”
What is the purpose for one wearing the cross? If it is only to be trendy or if it is for “kissing one’s lucky stars,” then our being offended as fellow Christians is certainly justified. The message of Christ’s cross, the substitutionary atonement of our Lord for us sinners, dare not be trivialized. But if the wearing of the cross is meant by the individual to reflect genuine interest in spreading the Gospel, then being offended by the cross-wearing would be completely out of place. A number of times people have developed a good conversation with others about the Savior through initial identification of a little cross. “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Gal. 6:14).