For the last several months, members of my church have invited our neighbors to a monthly community meal we host. It has been a great opportunity to get to know people in our neighborhood, but recently a few people were met with a question that seemed right out of a 1970s romantic comedy: “What’s your sign?” Even though this sounds like a clichéd pick-up line, it is actually an important question our virtue-signaling age is asking. Drive around the streets of our neighborhood (probably yours, too), and you will see yard signs that advocate for immigrants, gay rights, resistance against the president, and a host of other social issues. One of the most prevalent nearest to the church is the “We Believe” sign: “In this house, we believe: black lives matter, women’s rights are human rights, no human is illegal, science is real, love is love, kindness is everything.”
As Christians, we have a sign: the cross. Why do we use this sign to symbolize our faith? We had many images from which to choose: a dove, a manger, an empty tomb, fish, or loaves. In The Cross of Christ, John Stott explains that Christians wanted to “commemorate as central to their understanding of Jesus neither his birth nor his youth, neither his teaching nor his service, neither his resurrection nor his reign, nor his gift of the Spirit, but his death, his crucifixion.”
As our neighbors and friends declare their beliefs, they in turn want to know what we believe. Sadly, much of American Christianity is known for something other than the cross. Too often, we are known for our flirtations with worldly power, prestige, and wealth. The cross, on the other hand, represents death, sacrifice, weakness, and humility. Again, John Stott:
God could quite justly have abandoned us to our fate. He could have left us alone to reap the fruit of our wrongdoing and to perish in our sins. It is what we deserved. But he did not. Because he loved us, he came after us in Christ. He pursued us even to the desolate anguish of the cross, where he bore our sins, guilt, judgement and death. It takes a hard and stony heart to remain unmoved by love like that.
Our neighbors’ yard signs tell a story of inclusion and community, but they stop short of the sacrifice that is necessary for true inclusion and community to take root. It is only as cosmic rebels and exiles from Eden are brought close to God through the death of Jesus that true peace, love, hope, justice, and life can be found.
What’s your sign? May we meet this cultural moment with the oldest sign we possess and placard the cross of Christ before our watching world, assuring them of God’s work on their behalf.
Eric Landry is executive editor of Modern Reformation and serves as senior pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Austin, Texas.