“We sinned for no reason but an incomprehensible lack of love, and He saved us for no reason but an incomprehensible excess of love.”
~Peter Kreeft, Jesus-Shock
Not too long ago, a friend of mine commented on how it seems as though I’m always wearing a necklace. The comment caught me off-guard; their observation truly came from out-of-the-blue. The regular adornment of a necklace doesn’t seem all that noteworthy to me; particularly given how little of my necklace is typically exposed. It’s never worn outside of my other attire (this is intentional), leaving only a small portion of the chain visible. An inch by half-inch tungsten carbide cross hangs from the chain; but again, rarely do others see it.
My friend’s comment serves as a personal reminder for how often the smallest and most subtle tendencies we exhibit are noticed by others. Personally, I believe that most people are subconsciously trained to notice the subtle, habitual behaviors of others. It’s as if we’re intuitively aware that such behaviors often possess significant personal purpose or meaning for that individual. In the case of my necklace, it does.
For most of my life, I’ve refrained from wearing jewelry. This primarily had to do with the amount of time that I’ve invested in sports. In high school, I played basketball (4 seasons), football (2 seasons), soccer (2 seasons), and track (1 season). When I wasn’t in-season (during the summers), I was either playing recreational basketball or soccer somewhere in town with friends—or, chilling at the beach. So, why does my sport participation matter? Because it’s easy to lose jewelry when there’s a constant need to regularly remove it. Moreover, jewelry—in my opinion—is, generally speaking, an unnecessary expense.
So what changed? Not much actually…
While not as much sport-oriented as in the past, I’m still quite physically active. And I still find jewelry, for the most part, to be an unnecessary cost. When purchasing something for myself, I tend to lean towards best-value buys that possess functionality and practicality. For instance, I own one dress watch—a Citizen Eco-watch. I bought it during the 2002 holiday season, when it was on sale for half its retail price. I’ve owned it for 13 years, and I’ve never had to replace the battery. Yes, it’s gotten a bit scuffed up over those 13 years, but it still serves its purpose. It tells the time. Why would I replace it? (Answer: I wouldn’t)
And the necklace? My reason for wearing it ties back to a particular verse of scripture…
While a Christian since youth, I’d say that I took a more mature approach to growing in my faith and intimately knowing Christ around my 26th birthday. Subsequently, around this time, I began to delve much deeper into scripture (and Christian community). And, as I’m sure it is for many Christians, there are certain verses, when read, that I seem to hear God’s Word as though it’s an audible voice. Such scripture verses seem to catch me as I’m straying from Christ-like living, and powerfully reinforce my convictions. For example, Proverbs 3:5-7 reminds me that the Lord’s wisdom is the only wisdom, and that exhibiting wisdom requires trusting God:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and turn away from evil (Proverbs 3:5-7, NASB)
Now, as for the necklace…
The scripture verse that explains why I wear a necklace comes from the Gospel of Luke. This particular verse resonates with me when I’m lost in my weakness, and I’m finding myself tempted to succumb to sin. It reminds me of Who and what (i.e. Christ and the cross) is at the center of my faith, and what I—from that faith—am capable of doing. It provides a simple, yet powerful, statement of what it means to follow Christ:
And He [Jesus] was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me” (Luke 9:23)
For me, the necklace that I wear serves as an extension of the above scripture; possessing the physical characteristics that reinforce its message. The cross is made with a (relatively) inexpensive material. Its design is simple and clean. It’s heavy and durable. The multi-link chain is of a length that—when being worn—lays the cross upon my chest, directly over my heart. And how do these physical characteristics reflect the scripture message that I hear when reading from the Gospel of Luke?
The simple and clean design of the cross reflects, for me, the simplistic and sinless lifestyle that Christ models for us. He is a carpenter for thirty years before engaging in His ministry—He labors. He follows (and fulfills) the Law (Matthew 5:17). When He begins His ministry, He heals the sick and lame; serving the needs of others (Matthew 9:12-13; Mark 2:17; Luke 5:31-32). He maintains a constant community through His disciples—His friends (John 15:12-17). He clarifies what it means to adhere to the entire Law of God by “Loving God and loving others” (Matthew 22:36-40). And Jesus provides His disciples a simple message for salvation: Follow Me. “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.”(John 10:9; 11:25; 14:6).
The cross—being made of tungsten carbide—is heavy and durable, serving as a reminder that Jesus carried the weight of the world’s sins when he took upon the cross (John 1:29-31). His sacrifice—a perfect, unblemished offering (1 Peter 1:19) from a forever enduring love (Psalm 100:5)—provides His believers eternal salvation (John 17:1-5).
The cross that hangs around my neck serves as a reminder to take up my cross daily. Its weight sits upon my chest—over my heart—reminding me that through the cross, I’ve been given a new heart and a new Spirit (Ezekiel 36:25-26). With that new heart, and guided by the Holy Spirit, I can both resist sin and lovingly carry the burdens of others (Galatians 6:2); knowing, with the utmost confidence, that Christ is with me (Galatians 2:20). I know that no sacrifice I make will ever be as significant as the sacrifice He’s already made for me.
Moreover, I realize that the salvation I receive from the cross is not justified by what I’ve done—being a sinner and falling short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23)—but rather, is a gift of grace from my Lord (Ephesians 2:8-10). Christ’s loving sacrifice is the source for all the blessings I receive. I’m not deserving of anything but death (Romans 6:23). Thus, I wear the cross discretely, hidden underneath my clothing—a reminder to be humble. Whenever I’m tempted, I can feel the weight of the cross upon my chest, reminding me what He’s already done on my behalf. For, if I’m truly clothed in Christ (Colossians 3:12-17; Romans 13:14), serving as His ambassador (2 Corinthians 5:20-21), then my actions and words (1 John 3:18) will reflect my Lord more than a cross on a necklace ever could…
So I take up my cross daily, and wear it around my neck with humility—a constant reminder of Christ’s love, and what it means to follow Him.