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November 30, 2014 Q & A

Wearing a cross as jewelry

Question

What is the OPC's view on wearing a cross (not a crucifix) as a necklace or earrings?

Answer

The OPC does not have an official position on the matter of wearing a cross. I am sure there are a variety of views, but I think many ministers and elders would agree with the following.

What we wear, whether clothing or jewelry, should reflect a commitment to Christ that seeks His glory, not our own. Peter warns against an undue emphasis on "outward adornment" at the expense of an inner spiritual beauty. (1 Peter 3:3-4, 1 Tim. 2:9) To wear the cross only for its contribution to one's appearance seems a poor reason to do so.

At the same time, it is possible that the display of the cross will indeed call necessary attention to Jesus the Savior. I lived for a while in a culture that was hostile toward Christians. Yet many believers made a point of wearing the cross on their persons to show that they were not ashamed of the Lord, and they continue to do so even today as that hostility increases.

It is reasonable to hope that wearing a cross will prove to be a conversation starter that leads to the opportunity to give out the gospel. I can think of nothing more useful than to explain the meaning of the cross to someone who has little or no understanding of why Jesus came into the world.

But there are some liabilities of which we should be aware. The Westminster Shorter Catechism states the following in answer to Question 54 concerning the Third Commandment and not taking the name of the Lord in vain.

The third commandment requireth the holy and reverent use of God's names, titles, attributes, ordinances, Word, and works.

Wearing items of jewelry in the shape of a Christian cross could in certain circumstances violate the Third Commandment. The cross, as a Bible term, conveys a Word from God concerning salvation. It is the primary work of salvation. If in any way we demean or profane the Bible's concept of the cross, such as by reducing it to just a piece of jewelry, we are seriously in error. I have been especially shocked on occasion to see some movie star of questionable reputation wearing a cross necklace or the like as though her (or his) immoral lifestyle is consistent with the gospel. I fear that many ordinary people also carelessly wear the cross because it is fashionable.

Another problem arises when a person believes the cross is some kind of "charm" to ward off trouble. This attitude is nothing less than idolatry and a violation of the First and Second Commandments. Things, even religious things, have no power in themselves, and the one who believes they do have such power or who believes that the Lord is impressed to help the wearer has no understanding of the true and living God.

You asked "the OPC's view" on this question. I believe the Biblical view is one of caution and awareness that the cross is a unique representation of what the Bible says about Jesus' death on behalf of sinners. The wearing of it is not sinful in itself, but those to do wear it ought to be real believers (not pretend-Christians) and should be prepared to give a reason for the hope that is in them. (1 Peter 3:15)

May the Lord bless you as you seek to please Him.

 

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