Q&A: Cross Necklace

QMany Christians wear the cross on a necklace or a ring as a symbol. Is it right for a Christian to do this?

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AWhenever questions like this arise that deal with clothing or outward appearance we need to be extremely careful with our answers. Do we have a direct command? Or do we have general principles that apply? I know of no scripture that would directly prohibit a believer from wearing a cross necklace. However, there are principles in the Word of God that pertain to the practice of wearing crosses.

First, the cross has been made into something that is attractive to the world and to the flesh, whereas in scripture the cross is a symbol of shame and reproach.

“But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.” (Gal. 6:14)

Crucifixion was a shameful method of execution, reserved for the worst criminals; the outcasts of society. The cross as a symbol did not come into use for over a hundred years after the death of Christ, and even then it did not become popular until the fourth century when Constantine Christianized the Roman Empire. Christians in the days of Roman persecution understood what the cross meant. Many of them had seen actual crucifixions, including those of Christian martyrs. But when the church rose in worldly prominence, it lost a sense of what the cross means as far as separation from the world. Before long, the cross began to be represented as a golden, glimmering thing worn as a body ornament, or at the front of a cathedral. It has been made into something that draws admiration from the world, and even unbelievers.

Second, many Christians, especially in the Orthodox or Roman churches, use the cross as a good luck charm, or as an object which adds efficacy to their prayers. This is a practice that borders on idolatry.

Third, there is nothing in scripture that would remotely suggest Christians should wear the cross as a body ornament. Some would appeal to the Lord’s words in Matt. 10:38, 16:24, Mark 8:34, Luke 9:23. However, these passages clearly refer to the disciple’s willingness to suffer and be rejected. Furthermore, it says “his cross” referring to the believer, rather than “my cross” referring to the cross of Christ.

In spite of these points, the cross has become a widely-accepted symbol of Christianity. There are many believers who wear the cross to publicly identify themselves as Christians, and do so in devotion to Christ. This is a commendable motive! It is likely that many of them are ignorant of what the scriptures say about the cross as a symbol. We know that even when we do things that are unintelligent, if our motive is right, at least our desire is pleasing to God.

“So that do not judge anything before the time, until the Lord shall come, who shall also both bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and shall make manifest the counsels of hearts; and then shall each have his praise from God.” (1 Cor. 4:5)

My conclusion is that is it not intelligent for the believer to wear a golden cross, given the weight of scripture regarding the meaning of the cross. However, I would not condemn those who do so, especially where the motive is good.

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