As I was walking out of a bagel shop with a friend, we were greeted by a young man who was sitting at an outside table of the shop. He asked us if we were with a church-group. I made a quick observation about his attire. He had a cross on a necklace around his neck, cross earrings and other religious emblems. His demeanor was arrogant and assaultive in trying to raise himself up as being better than us because he was not part of “organized religion.” I've heard this weak argument before. It demonstrates no understanding of what the Bible identifies as Christianity. Christianity is and was always an organized effort by fellow believers to spread the message as recounted in detail in the book of Acts.
But rather than take up that discussion, I thought I’d try to get him to think on a very basic level. So I challenged him: “If someone were to murder a relative of yours with a gun, would you take that gun, put it on a chain and wear it around your neck, or would you be repulsed by it?”
The young man knew exactly what I was referring to and then went on to say that if a person doesn’t reverence the cross, that person is not truly Christian. In response, I asked, “What is more important, that Jesus died for our sins or the method and instrument of his unjust execution?” The man completely avoided the question and started throwing insults at me. I could tell he was not going to be a reasonable individual so I left.
Two things I will commend the young man for, first, he had conviction and second, he was not afraid to discuss it. So many I meet today claim to believe in God and attend some religious functions, but they have no desire to discuss something so vital for our life—salvation by belief in the ransom.
It has been weeks since that encounter and it took a long while for me to reflect on it. I’m still not sure what I would or could have done differently. Admittedly, I tend to get defensive and take an adamant stance when others start verbally assaulting me. I try to always call to mind God’s direction that a true Christian should always be peaceable, even when under adverse conditions. However, just for the record, I wanted to document the facts about the cross.
A Wikipedia article makes this observation: “During the first two centuries of Christianity, the cross may have been rare in Christian iconography, as it depicts a purposely painful and gruesome method of public execution and Christians were reluctant to use it.” Another article indicates that the cross came into use around the third century. Finally, a third article I found on the web identifies the cross as being of pagan (not Christian) origin. You, the reader, should note that I took care to NOT use any literature written by Jehovah’s Witnesses in the above references. The reason was to show that this is not merely some doctrine that we (Jehovah’s Witnesses) made up. But it was after diligent search that we came to same conclusion as the articles cited above. However, now that the facts have been corroborated, here is what we officially believe.
But lets come back to the second question I posed to the young man, “What is more important, that Jesus died for our sins or the means of his death?” Although prophecy did indicate that Jesus would die by the standard Roman means of being put on a pole, a stake, the vastly more important fact is not how he died but why he died. In fact, the majority of the Christian scriptures accentuates the WHY of the matter, not the HOW. And as far as HOW he died, making a religious symbol of it should be as offensive to us as it was to the first-century Christians.