Cross or Crown?

Connection Magazine asked Christians from Northeast Ohio if either Jesus' cross, or the crowns that followers of Jesus will receive, should be the symbol for Christianity.
by Mykol Kirksey Lewis

Connection Magazine writer, Mykol Kirksey (seated) interviews one of a hundred people at an area bookstore.

A modest survey of 100 believers was recently taken, at Rainbow Family Bookstore in Maple Heights, to determine which symbol of faith Christians most readily identify. The question posed was: Should Christians identify with the Cross, (symbolizing the power of the Blood to cleanse and save us from our sins), or the Crown, (symbolizing the promise of being co-heirs with Christ in the Kingdom)? Before the results are revealed, it is beneficial to know what the Scriptures tell us as well as what 'scholars' claim.

In Acts 11:26, the term Christian is first referenced: "And when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch." During early church history it is said that Christians first adopted the symbol of the Ichthus, or fish, to secretly identify themselves to other believers out of fear of being persecuted for their faith and because Jesus says disciples are to be "fishers of men;" (Matthew 4:19). The spelling comes from taking the first letter from the Greek words "Iesous Chreistos Theou Uios Soter;" being translated as "Jesus Christ the Son of God the Saviour." Ironically, it is also said that this symbol was used by Augustine to "Christianize" the pagan deity Dagon. (Referenced from the internet site thewordsofeternallife.com). We still see this symbol used today; but the universal symbol is that of the Cross, either with or without Jesus upon it.

According to Grant Osborne, a contributing writer for the Holman Bible Dictionary, "A person crucified in Jesus' day was first beaten with a whip consisting of thongs with pieces of metal or bone attached to the end, or at least flogged, until the blood flowed. This was not just done out of cruelty but was designed to hasten death and lessen the terrible ordeal. After the beating, the victim was forced to bear the crossbeam to the execution site in order to signify that life was already over and to break the will to live. A tablet detailing the crime(s) was often placed around the criminal's neck and later fastened to the cross. At the site the prisoner was often tied, (the normal method), or nailed, (if a quicker death was desired), to the crossbeam. The nail would be driven through the wrist rather than the palm, since the smaller bones of the hand could not support the weight of the body. The beam with the body was then lifted and tied to the already affixed upright pole. Pins or a small wooden block were placed halfway up to provide a seat for the body, lest the nails tear open the wounds or the ropes force the arms from their sockets. Finally the feet were tied or nailed to the post. Death was caused by the loss of blood circulation and coronary failure. Especially if the victims were tied, it could take days of hideous pain as the extremities turned slowly gangrenous; so often the soldiers would break the victims legs with a club, causing massive shock and a quick death. Such deaths were usually done in public places, and the body was left to rot for days, with carrion birds allowed to degrade the corpse further."

Just as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are one, so are the prophecy and promise of the Messiah in the crucifixion. Although humiliated, tortured, and debased, Jesus was still King of Kings and Lord of Lords. "And the soldiers platted a crown of thorns, and put it on His head, and they put on him a purple robe;" (John 19:2). While Romans 8:17 reminds us, "if children, then heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together." II Corinthians 4:17 declares, "For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory." Again, our royalty is confirmed in II Timothy 4:8, "Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love His appearing." I Peter 5:4, "And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away," Finally, Revelation 2:10 declares, "Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life."

Fifty-one percent of those surveyed believed that you cannot identify with the crown without first coming to the cross; 30% believed that the cross is sufficient in itself; 15% are looking forward to receiving their crowns while 4% felt there was no need for outward identification, but rather having the Word inside.

The reasons for each respondent's choice were genuine and well thought out. Ms. Yvette Aschenbrenner of Garfield Heights is clinging to the old rugged cross; "As we look at the cross, the Father, through His only begotten Son, expresses His love for us. It is that love, and only His love, that corrects us. Understanding how valuable and loved we are will change our hearts and lives." Denese Thomas knows that it was the blood for her; "The cross was significant to saving souls. Jesus was a living sacrifice for our sins and due to the blood, which has the ultimate power, we are cleansed."

For Keith Frank of New Song Church in Cleveland Heights, his choice is the Crown, "The crown symbolizes His sacrifice and how humble Jesus was because He was still King. Others were crucified beside Him, but He was the only one to wear a crown of thorns." Nancy Rogowski from the Church of the Living God is pressing toward the prize; "The crown is appealing to me. I like them both, but the crown represents victory. That's what I'm working for."

Mr. Jesse L. Smith of Canton Christian Fellowship contends that, "There should not be a separation between the symbols of the cross and the crown because these two symbols represent who Christ is to the saved and the unsaved world. The work of the cross is still being done through those of us willing to be used. Furthermore, we are already joint-heirs with Christ and we need to walk in our authority to transform lives as Christ has already demonstrated. The cross and the crown are inseparable." James Kowalka of Parma also believes in the duality of the cross and crown; "I believe that the cross and the crown go hand-in-hand. Neither can be ignored. There would be no crown without the cross because the purpose of the cross was to make redemption complete so that we could be fully united with our Father and be co-heirs with Christ".

To the contrary, Mr. Joseph Marino of Parkside Church in Bainbridge is firm in his belief that,"Christians don't need crosses or crowns. All we need is the Word of God. Our objective should is to bring people to a personal relationship with God. It's not about what you wear around your neck." Perhaps Mr. Marino truly believes in and adheres to the second Commandment, "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth;" (Exodus 20:4).

Last, but certainly not least, sisters, by blood and spirit, Celina Morales and Hilba Rojas of Iglesia Casa de Alabanza y Oracion Ministerios Elim, simply profess "Just Jesus. We believe in the death and resurrection of our Lord and because of that we have eternal life."

With which symbols do you identify?

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