The cross is the symbol of Easter. Not eggs. Not bunnies. Not fancy clothes. The cross. Period.
The cross is, was, and forever will be the symbol of Easter. On this blessed day, Christians globally celebrate the Christ-event: Christ came, Christ died, and Christ arose.
Revisionists are lurking around every corner, hellbent on changing history and the true meaning of cultural landmarks. Some things are debatable and warrant the formation of advisory commissions for discussions and solutions. We cannot, however, let the secular mindset enter the sacred halls of the Christian faith.
The symbol of Easter is not bunnies, chocolate, decorative eggs, or a pretty new suit of clothes. The cross is our iconic symbol. There is no debate!
And certainly, there is no “your truth vs. my truth” argument here.
The cross is a symbol of punishment. In first-century Rome, death by crucifixion was for rebellious slaves, political rebels, or criminals. As Jesus hung on the cross, His death symbolized that all humanity had become slaves to sin, rebels toward the commands of God, and criminals in the court of heaven. The cross symbolized all of that and more. Chocolate suggests sweetness and a delicious decadence — which is nowhere to be found in any narrative about sin. Although sin is tempting, it is not sweet. In fact, it’s just the antithesis. The temporary pleasure it offers is overshadowed by the bitterness produced by its long-term pain.
Bunnies are cute, furry animals known for their high speed of reproduction. This imagery and that of decorated eggs have nothing to do with the Bible or our faith. It is a 13th-century practice stemming from pagan roots. And to suggest that attending church on Easter requires a fancy new outfit is also nowhere to be found in sacred Scripture.
God wants our hearts, not our clothes. Clothing divides the haves from the have-nots. The cross reconciles. The vertical beam points us to God while the horizontal one connects us with people. The cross is a bridge to God and a pathway that bridges the racial and cultural divides among people. We’d be better off putting the money we would spend on clothes into the offering basket rather than the cash register.
New clothes don’t perpetuate ministry — financial support of the church does.
We must not clutter the Gospel message with chocolate, bunnies, eggs, or new clothing.
To subtly rebrand Easter with symbols of bunnies, chocolate, and new threads is not only wrong ethically, it’s blasphemous. The Apostle Paul, so convinced the cross is the premier icon of our faith, declared that God sent him to preach the Gospel, not “with a lot of fancy rhetoric of my own, lest the powerful action at the center — Christ on the Cross — be trivialized into mere words” (1 Corinthians 1:17).
Fancy words would cloud the message that Jesus’ death on the cross paves the way of salvation for the world. Preaching the cross keeps the main thing the main thing. It’s simple and succinct.
The cross must remain an irreplaceable landmark donning the social landscape of American society. The cross tells us about ourselves, our alienation from God. Without the cross, we’re lost. Without the cross, we’re still in need of a savior. The cross is a symbol of the payment for our penalties against God.
That is why we must not clutter the Gospel message with chocolate, bunnies, eggs, or new clothing. The cross is a simple and historic icon of hope, change, forgiveness, and God’s redemptive love.
David D. Ireland is senior pastor of Christ Church, a multisite, multiracial church in northern New Jersey with a membership of 8,800. His latest book, just out today — March 26, 2018 — is “One in Christ.” For more information, please visit: ChristChurchUSA.org and davidireland.org.