“Oh, That Old Rugged Cross . . .”


It was 1942. Cities were being destroyed. Synagogues were being torched to the ground. The Jews, God's chosen people, were being led to the slaughter. Germany was being overrun by Nazis — nearly all of Europe was. And the "good" men and women stood by and watched. 

When the child was beaten in the street by a soldier, they tried to avert their gaze and hurry to pass the ugly sight. When the shops' glass windows were shattered, goods stolen, businesses pilfered and marked as "unclean," they simply shopped elsewhere. When their neighbors were herded into the street with small suitcases and tear-streaked faces, they stood in their doorways or pulled the window-curtains back just enough to catch a glimpse, grieved or glad it was sometimes hard to tell, and merely watched.

"Where are the Christians?" one young man stood and cried, his heart broken by the madness that overtook his world. "Should we stand here with empty hands at the end of the war when they ask the question: 'And what did you do?'" His name was Hans Scholl. He and his sister Sophie were later beheaded by the majority-elected, honored, respected leaders of their "Christian" nation for their efforts to stem the tide of evil consuming all in sight.

Today there are different battles we must fight. Cities are being destroyed. Churches are brought to ruin. God's children are being led to the slaughter. America is overrun by an enemy far more dangerous than the Nazis of former times. But you simply stand by and watch.

When the child is aborted at the clinic in your town, can you wash his blood from your hands? When the fatherless is subjected to the cruelty of a world more than anxious to exploit his plight, can you continue your own way to collect your well-earned earthly goods? When your friends and family are led down the path of destruction, led upon that crowded path which they say leads to heaven but in our heart of hearts we all know leads to hell, how can you remain so calm and silent about their approaching demise while you watch?

There is a religion that wears itself about your neck as proud and gold and symbolic of things you have never known. There is a religion that you can pin upon your shirt that shines brightly for all to see and which will garner admirers to your side. There is a religion that blends itself into the background of your stage while you step forward upon some grand platform to proclaim yourself for the glory of One who never sought or desired any such worldly acclaim. There is a religion upon which you might build businesses and friendships and families and even ministries, to much earthly gain, but holds no semblance to Christianity for there is no real cross at its core.

A real cross is one that leads to crucifixion — it is uncompromising, unyielding in its purpose. Is the cross of your faith one that draws applauding audiences or angry and mocking and cursing mobs? Is the cross of your faith one that comfortably fits into your fashion and lifestyle, compliments and adds to it even, or is it one that stands out in sharp contrast and causes any who carry it to stand out with the same stark crudeness? Do you parade a cross upon a stage or does a cross display you upon itself — have you ever felt the rough heaviness of the wood, the agony when the nails pierce flesh and muscle, the weight crushing and the pain pulling until you can no longer breathe unless you lift yourself by your excruciatingly torn and pinned hands and feet?

The cross of Christianity is one upon which men die. The disciples of old knew of no other such instrument or symbol by that name but the one that brought about the complete death of the one for which it was made. "If any man will be My disciple, he must take up his cross and follow Me . . ." Great multitudes "followed" Him, but only those who bore their cross in pattern after their Beloved were counted as disciples, were promised the eternal life He offered — all others were warned of eternal destruction. 

Disciples today know no other cross but the one upon which the man for which it was made must die. They accept no small replica, no smooth impostor carved beneath church steeples upon platforms built by men, no shiny emblems which can simply be tacked to the outside of the person — no, they lay their whole life upon the real thing and only upon that will they allow themselves to be raised up for all to see. Disciples today know the meaning of the Words of Jesus, still. Disciples today are not found in crowds, or raised high apart from their Master, but are the few who follow His exact pattern of life — who know the completion of His hard promises and thus the treasured, incomparable fellowship of His sufferings.

"Where are the Christians?" I cry out into the empty bleakness. Will you simply stand there with empty hands at the end of the war when they ask the question, "And what did you do?" Or do your hands bear the mark of your Master? "Where are the Christians?" I wonder, but all seems so still and lifeless — so tidy and refined and polished to the standards of the world. I see thousands of crosses around, some as twisted as the Nazi's, and thousands of people who present them to the world with no small flourish. But I see no men upon crosses like the one upon which my Savior hung, who present them without flourish or fine embellishments — that rather are presented by them with the blood and the tears and the high price of sacrificial undivided love that marks every true disciple. I see clearly none who have died fully, as upon a real cross all men must, that they might live.

In my heart, I feel the cry of my Beloved's Heart. I am longing for Christians, for the fellowship of those who will bear a cross as I have, the fellowship of those who love with all nailed to that cruel instrument of death and nothing held back — He is longing for His Bride! Seek His Face and look upon it and open your eyes with me to the price of cowardice, of restraint, of religion, of polished substitutions for giving our lives to Him as He gave His for us! Suffer your comfort and ease and earthly gain and the acclaim of men no longer. Let only the kind of cross that marked His Life mark your own. Bring no more dishonor, but the glory He first wrought and truly desires to His Name. Know such a Love as His until it pierces and crucifies and permeates you through and through, that you may live by His Love and His Love alone.

Copyrighted material, used with permission.