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THE CROSS AN EMBLEM OF SUFFERING AND SALVATION

OBOH ALEXANDER
INTRODUCTION

It is an evident fact that to be a Christian is to be Christ like. For the scriptures tell us that it was at Antioch that the disciples were first called Christians Acts 11:26. The symbol of Christianity in the history of the Church is the Cross. The cross as a symbol is besieged with varied interpretations. It connotes suffering, it sends a message of contradiction, and it is a symbol that depicts rejection, scorn and neglect. Over and above all it is an emblem of suffering also an emblem of salvation. The cross reflects and represents a perfect example of suffering and salvation. It is the sign of Christianity and of victory. Christianity is not devoid of the cross just as the cross is not devoid of Christianity. But the situation that presents itself to over 1.2 Billion Catholics in the world is the case that many do not see the cross as encapsulating a message that was not comprehensible or acceptable to others, but in actuality the cross contains the message that God himself is one who suffers and that through suffering he is found of us and that he also loves us. And that is where our victory comes to play, that is where our salvation becomes actualisable and realistic, that is the point where we truly display the Christ like attitudes as true and faithful followers who should embrace with both hands the emblem of suffering which is the Cross. To gain a concise grasp of the above, it is quite apposite to sight varied instances in the scriptures where Christ Jesus who is the second person of the blessed trinity makes reference to the cross as a necessary tool for a holistic Christian life.

JESUS CHRIST AND THE CROSS The understanding of the Romans of the cross was that it was seen as an instrument of torture and execution reserved for criminals.1 On the other hand, as mentioned above, the cross is also a symbol of Christian faith
1 See Catholic Bible Dictionary by Scott Hahn p. 179

which is explicated in the redeeming death of Jesus Christ. For he said He who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.2 This presupposes that redemptive nature of the cross which cannot and should not be dissociated from the Christian life and vocation. With Jesus it was not just a mere saying, neither was it an allusion to his crucifixion rather it was an invitation to witnessing, an invitation to selfdenial which involves a total submission of ones will to God. Thus making a complete surrendering to the will of God will necessarily provoke joy. Not phenomenal joy but a supernatural and extra ordinary joy, the joy of being a true witness and a Christian. Still in the framework of the words of Christ Jesus, he says Whoever loves father of mother more than me is not worthy of me and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever does not take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 3 To be worthy of Jesus therefore presupposes that every Christian is to take up his/her cross and thread along the path that leads to salvation. The cross therefore will have a pivotal and unequivocal role to play, because it will serve the purpose of a companion and a friend. A companion and a friend whose burdens we are able to carry alongside ours. The cross as an emblem of suffering and salvation entails self-denial. Little wonder Jesus told his disciples If anyone want to become my followers let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it and those who lose their life for my sake will find it4
Crosses in our Christian life are those challenging situations and moments which sometimes portray themselves as insurmountable. However we should not see them as that which is so heavy that we cannot carry it or move under its weight. Christ, after all, said Take my yoke upon you and learn from me If He is yoked with us then there is no burden too heavy that we and He cannot carry together. But if we are burdened by the weight of this worlds glitter and gold, we will soon
2 Matt 10:38 3 Matt 10:37-39 4 Matt 16:24-25

be immobilized by it. It will not only weigh us down, it will crush us. Moreover our hearts will be crushed by the struggle against others who want to take it all away from you. You will be heart-broken by the family feuds over who will get your fortune when you die. The lesson is limpidly clear. That there can be no Christianity devoid of the cross and there can be no cross devoid of Christianity. The crosses of life many a time serves as stepping stones to achieving our aim as Christians and as true witnesses to the gospel of Christ. Consequently, we should grab with both hands the challenging times and situations in our lives while hoping and praying that they will in actuality serve the purpose of stepping stones towards our heavenly goal. The cross demonstrates the power of God to save us. The cross is where God does all the work. So I cherished the old rugged cross, through my trophies at last I lay down, I will cling to the old rugged cross and exchange it someday for a crown.