Religion of Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Source: Daniel Gyebi

Lift High the Cross of Jesus Christ

In October 2003 when we were inaugurating the Prayerhouse Ministry in Kumasi, I went to town in search of Bibles, Hymn Books, and Crucifixes or Crosses to place in each room to assist individuals in their prayer devotions. The first place I went to was the Challenge Bookstore at Adum, in the central part of Kumasi. The attendant told me that they did not sell crucifixes or crosses there. When I asked where I could find some, the attendant said emphatically that only in the Roman Catholic Bookstore. The Roman Catholic Bookstore is on the other side of the central part of town, so I ignored the attendant and went one block up the hill to the Presbyterian Bookstore. There, I was told the same thing. Reluctantly, I went to the Roman Catholic Bookstore where I found miniature crosses and crucifixes which I bought for the Prayerhouse.
Years later, someone who had visited the Prayerhouse and seen the crucifixes asked me if I was a Catholic. Interestingly, the same person also saw Methodist Hymn Books and Christian Asor Ndwom (the Akan version of Methodist Hymn Book), but did not ask if I was a Methodist.
The death on the cross and the triumphant resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ are what make Christianity unique. And the cross is the main symbol of Christianity. Why, then, have many Christians relegated the cross to the background and allowed only our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters to hold on to it? Those who are concerned about idolatry should take heart and note that the cross holds a special place in Christianity. The cross is a constant reminder that Christ died for all of us. The Apostle Paul said, "… we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God". (1 Corinthians 1:23-24). Hear Paul again: “may I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ ….” (Galatians 6:14).
There are those who argue that Christianity is a matter of the heart. I agree with them. However, we should note that after God gave the Ten Commandments to the people of Israel, he told them to:
“love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.” (Deuteronomy 6:5-9).
Today, that would be equivalent to having a bumper sticker on your car and other property. God wanted them to incorporate the laws into their daily lives, not just keep them in their hearts, so that the laws would be more visible and easier to learn, understand, remember, and share with others. Holding and lifting high the cross, the symbol of our Christian faith, is consistent with these guidelines God gave to the people of Israel.
Let it not be that some of those who have concerns about the cross do so because they are afraid, timid, ashamed, or shy about letting others know that they are Christians. Let it also not be counted as a form of denial of the Lord Jesus Christ. Many Christians talk freely about politics, sports, education, the economy, movies, entertainment etc. Some display all kinds of pictures, slogans, messages, and symbols in their homes, rooms, cars, and as tattoos on their bodies. Yet, they find various excuses to avoid talking about Christ and him crucified on the cross. It would be helpful for Christians to find appropriate ways to weave into our conversations such topics as God, the Lord Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, the cross, the Church, love, grace, salvation, and heaven. We should feel excited talking about these topics reverently. We should not allow unbelievers to always influence the timing, topics, and contents of our conversations and plans.
Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ wants Christians to take up their own cross and follow him (Matthew 10:28 and Luke 9:23). Whether Christ means this literally or figuratively, one way some Christians have chosen to fulfil the charge is to physically carry or hold on to the cross or crucifix as a constant reminder of the slow and painful death of Jesus Christ on the cross, and the need for them to suffer and triumph with him. This act of worship should not be left to members of one Christian denomination.
As John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, found out in a dream, there will be no Anglicans, Baptists, Catholics, Methodists, Presbyterians, or members of any denomination in heaven; only Christians or those who love the Lord. The blood that our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ shed on the cross continues to flow on Calvary, ready to wash and cleanse all who believe and are willing to be saved. Christ died on the cross so that all of us can be saved and live our lives through him, for him, and with him. Let us share the Good News with all. Let us draw ourselves and others closer to the Old Rugged Cross, in whatever form we are led by the Holy Spirit, whether with our Bibles, crosses or crucifixes, hymnals, prayers, words, or good works.
May God grant all of us the courage not only to figuratively carry our cross, but to literally lift the cross of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ higher and higher in our thoughts, words, and deeds.
Christ is risen. Christ is risen indeed. Happy Easter!

Dr. Daniel Gyebi, Attorney-at-Law, Texas, U.S.A., and Founder, PrayerHouse Ministry, Kumasi, Ghana.

PrayerHouse Ministry is dedicated to providing a quiet facility for Christians to pray individually by themselves without any intermediary priest, pastor or any other person. This is a free service. No money is demanded or accepted. The facility is located at Kyerekrom / Fumesua, near Building and Road Research Institute Offices, one mile off the Kumasi-Accra Road and next to a house called Grace Castle. If you are interested, please contact Agnes at 027-7423815.