“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. – 1 Corinthians 1:18 NIV
If you grew up LDS or in an area with plenty of meetinghouses strategically placed in certain neighborhoods then you may have noticed the visual absence of crosses. From an outsider’s perspective, this may seem strange since having a cross out on your building would be a fairly easy way for the Mormon Church to legitimize themselves within a larger Christian community.
However, you won’t find a crucifix hanging on a wall, mounted on a steeple, or hanging around any devout Mormon’s neck. How it got to be this way from a historical view is not nearly as important as why it got to be this way from a theological view.
The cross is offensive because to some LDS it puts a spotlight where it doesn’t belong. Direct from a Mormon perspective from the book Mormonism for Dummies, “You won’t see any crucifixes; Mormons prefer to focus on the Savior’s resurrection, not his death.” For the record, much of this book is propaganda with two authors that have a LDS bias and really treat their readers like ‘dummies’ not expecting them to fact check the portions that make the modern church seem more legitimate.
To be fair, from a Biblical perspective the early church did not wear crosses or use the image of the cross to identify their faith or religious identity. If you study this yourself you will find three symbols the early Christians used to identify themselves as believers in Jesus; the symbols were the ostrich egg, a butterfly, and later a fish (like the ones you see on the backs of cars today). But no crosses initially.
Was it because they were offended and therefore ashamed of the cross? No, in fact, in Galatians 5:11 it reads, “But if I, brothers, still preach circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been removed.”
That word for offense is the same root word we have in the English language for scandalous. The cross is offensive and scandalous for many reasons. The message of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, dying on a crucifix for the complete forgiveness of mankind is certainly a stumbling block for any group of people that think they can earn part of their salvation – like the Jews in Paul’s day and the LDS community in our day.
Sacrifice is not offensive to the Jews who were willing to be circumcised for their faith and sacrifice in the form of lifestyle discipline does not offend Mormons either. That which is offensive about the cross is the message more so than the model or replica of a physical cross.
So what am I saying? At Concerned Christians, should we stop talking about the cross and the implications of what Jesus did there? In Paul’s terminology, “God forbid!” However, should we be more mindful of how we are presenting ourselves to the LDS community that may be unnecessarily a stumbling block to them encountering the true Jesus Christ?
For instance, if the early Christians didn’t display models of crosses then why should we? Especially if the mere image is offensive to someone who needs to hear more foundational truths before the message of the cross can be received. Jesus says in Matthew 11:6, “And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” If someone we reach is offended by the actual cross then that is on them, but if we aren’t careful and we cause them to stumble by a model of the cross before they ever hear the message … well then that is on us.
Going forward we have to ask ourselves with every decision: is this going to be unnecessarily offensive that we can improve or is this something that may sting but has to remain for the authenticity of our message to stay intact?
This is somewhat humorous when I began thinking about this when it comes to the logo we have for Concerned Christians. We don’t have just one cross, or even two, but we have three! Our logo may as well serve as “Caution” signs on our shirts and a “Do Not Enter” sign on our building for any sensitive LDS person.
All of these things, whether it be a logo or the time of day we choose to meet, must be met with vigilant prayer by our partners in ministry. Please continue praying for this ministry but also add that we would be good stewards of whatever opportunities He gives us to witness and we wouldn’t put stumbling blocks in people’s way. Pray that He gives us the boldness to deliver the harsh but necessary truths and teach Godly wisdom that does not make sense to worldly ways of thinking. We have a worthy message that is both scandalous and beautiful and will bless those who don’t stumble because of it.