Pastor's Newsletter Article - September
Why use Crucifixes?
The remark has often been made by Lutherans concerning crucifixes: “That’s Catholic!” But as I
have encouraged us to do in accordance with Scripture, before making any such judgment, we ought to
test the spirits to see whether or not they are from God (1 Jn. 4:1). In other words, we should examine
such practices over against God’s Word and then should determine whether or not there is any benefit to
such a practice. So, I will answer according to Scripture.
So, what might be the benefits of having crucifixes? St. Paul’s words quoted above give us a good
start. He chose to know nothing among those with whom he lived and worked but Christ and Him crucified.
Why? Did not Jesus rise on the third day?
Of course, He did. Neither St. Paul nor I are denying that. But what St. Paul is concerned with here
is how all of Scripture, from Genesis to Revelation, is pointing us to the All-Atoning Sacrifice of Christ on
the cross! Jesus’ Resurrection confirms that we are justified by His Death; it also shows us that the way to
unending life is through participation in His Death, but it is by His death on the cross that we are saved.
For you may remember that Jesus, even after His Resurrection, still bears the wounds of His
crucifixion and will to all eternity (Jn 20:19-29; Rev. 5:6). Why? Because this is how we know God is love
(1 Jn. 4:8). This is how we know we have a merciful, heavenly Father, and not a vengeful God Who is
ready to wipe us out every time we fall into sin. This is why Christ and Him crucified is everything for St. Paul
and all the Scriptures. For without it, we are lost. Without Christ and Him crucified, we cannot know the
one true God.
So, a major benefit of having crucifixes is that it reminds us that our heavenly Father is
merciful to us and forgives us on account of His Son’s Death. It encourages us not to despair
when we see how great and many our sins are. It encourages us to trust in Him and Him alone
with childlike faith, in both good times and bad. It encourages us to fix our eyes (not only our
physical eyes, but the eyes of our heart) on Jesus and what He has done for us.
It is also a helpful reminder that this is the way in which we, as Christians, are now to live in our
daily various vocations, namely in self-sacrificial love toward all people. It is a reminder that in this way, we
are to daily take up our crosses and follow wherever our Lord leads (Lk. 9:23). In other words, we are to
die to our sinful, selfish selves and rise to lives of selflessness for our neighbor.
These are but a few things which crucifixes teach us. It is not a denial of the Resurrection. Far from
it. A crucifix shows us how we attain to that Resurrection, namely through daily dying and rising with
Christ; through daily participation in His Death and Resurrection. In other words, in daily living out our
Baptism. A Baptism which united us to Christ’s Death in order that we might also be united to His
Resurrection (Rom. 6:4-6). A Baptism which is lived out through daily contrition and repentance over sin;
through the daily practice of turning to Christ and Him crucified for forgiveness; through daily striving to
then live out self-sacrificial lives for those whom the Lord calls us to serve: Our wives, husbands, children,
grandchildren, parents, grandparents, bosses, employees, etc.…
Thus, we can see how Scripture both affirms the goodness of Christ crucified and shows us the
immense blessings of the same. Now then, the question becomes, “why not have crucifixes?” If the
entirety of the Scriptures points to Christ’s sacrificial Death upon the cross; if we are to daily die with Him
and so live, in reflection of Him, self-sacrificial lives for all men, why would we not want crucifixes to
constantly teach us these truths?
In the passage from St. Paul quoted at the top, he goes on to say that to despise Christ and Him
crucified is foolishness and a sign of unbelief (1 Cor. 1:22-25). May this be far from each one of us! Rather
let us fill our sanctuary and our homes with this sign of Christ and Him crucified! For this is our life. Our joy. Our peace. Amen