In my opinion, we should not wear uninterpreted Christian symbols or even have them in our houses like crosses. Or at least, we should not have them visible when non-Christian friends visit. The reason why is that Christian symbols have largely lost their meaning to the world apart from our interpretation. And we do not want to spoil an evangelistic opportunity by setting someone against us because they misunderstand what our symbols mean.
If we wear a cross or a Christian image in our house for the purpose of explanation, then that is different. But usually, we don’t use symbols as evangelistic tools (for weal or for woe). So when we have professionals come over (cable-persons, midwives, and so on), they see the symbols but without the opportunity to hear what they mean.
If we are honest, most people have made up their mind about the meaning of a symbol before they hear about it. In small towns during the 1950s, everyone knew what the cross meant. That’s where Jesus died. And if someone had a cross in one’s home, there was really only one kind of Christianity available (well, American Protestantism and Roman Catholicism).
But now we live in a fully multi-cultural age in which someone’s Christianity even in a small town could mean Mormon, JW, Roman Catholic, Unitarian, Liberal Protestant, Affirming, non-Affirming, and so on. A cross could imply to someone white supremacy, Billy Graham era evangelism, Coptic Christianity, and various other slices of the religious pie.
For these reasons, I would not want someone to see my religious symbols before I have a chance to define what I believe. They might write off my faith without knowing what I actually believe. If someone’s experience of faith is only negative, then they may associate me with that bad experience.
But we must let our character define the outcome of our faith and our confession the source of our character. Put simply, we love (character) because Christ loved us (confession).
Now I do not mean that we should have no symbols—bible verses on the wall, Bibles on the shelf, crosses, and so on. I am merely talking about the way we present symbols to people who come over to our house; or how we wear symbols in public.
And as I said in the first sentence, this is my opinion. Please disagree. I offer this as part of my ongoing thoughts. And I a more than happy to be proved wrong!
Mark Matthias says
Agreed — And needless to say, especially where it concerns the Jewish people.
Having been in Messianic ministries for quite some time, though it is essentially Christian,
during the transition to the Ekklesia, there were several things that were rejected as not
biblical such as graven images. Christians justified such things as ostensibly, not about idolatry…but I couldn’t avoid seeing the customs as idolatrous. Since many John 3:3 receivers are inclined to be highly spiritualized (not in the sense of charismatic), in the biblical sense of John 16:7-9…
An interesting thing happened when, as a young fellow, I had written the passages of the Bible on every wall in my apartment — I had no graven images — ironically, when about 15 Israelis came over to hang out none of them were even slightly offended by the writing even though half of it consisted of the New Testament (this experience taught me quite a bit). If it had been dripping with graven images, it would have been an opportunity perhaps for soulish attacks
(Ephesians 6:16) as one young lady explained to me.