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The Old Rugged Cross

Having watched some interesting specials on television over Easter, one raised a question that comes up occasionally and is something to think about: how is it that the cross became a symbol of Christianity?

It's somewhat surprising considering the horror of crucifixion - one of the most gruesome...and humiliating...forms of execution. It was considered so inhumane, in fact, that Roman citizens were exempt from crucifixion but for extraordinary cases of treason. Cicero called it "a most cruel and disgusting punishment." He went on to say that, " bind a Roman citizen is a crime, to flog him an crucify him is - what? There is no fitting word that can possibly describe so horrible a deed."   Actually, it wasn't until sometime around the third or fourth century that the cross began to be used as a symbol of faith. At that time, execution by crucifixion was abolished and the Roman Empire began the process of an "official" conversion to Christianity.

Now, of course, it has a positive connotation. Quite a transformation for the cross! For many of us who wear one in the form of a necklace, or who have one on our wall - or as we see it in our churches, it is a thing of beauty.

The cross is a symbol of powerful love and unimaginable sacrifice. It reminds us of Jesus' victory over sin and death. It is a symbol of hope, and of peace. The day Christ was crucified, a day of terror, horror and hopelessness, became one of the greatest days in history. The cross became a powerful, transformative, positive symbol - a source of comfort and strength, a symbol of our salvation.

On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross, the emblem of suffering and shame; and I love that old cross where the dearest and best for a world of lost sinners was slain. So I'll cherish the old rugged cross, till my trophies at last I lay down; I will cling to the old rugged cross, and exchange it some day for a crown.

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