American Christianity has overplayed the cross. The symbol of the cross has been co-opted for all kinds of causes other than the cause of Christ. Not only has the cross been co-opted, its meaning has also been diluted. Placing a cross on a building makes it a church, when the new testament notions of church are infinitely more than a building. The cross is only mentioned ten times outside of the gospels (1 Co. 1:17, 18; Gal. 5:11; 6:12, 14; Eph. 2:16; Phil. 2:8; 3:18; Col. 1:20; 2:14; Heb. 12:2). Staggeringly, the greek word for “cross” is omitted entirely from Paul’s letter to the Romans.
It appears that new testament authors chose to focus their attention less on the symbol of the cross and more upon Jesus of the cross, what his work on the cross accomplished. The cross, when used biblically, is used interchangeably with the “gospel” and the “power of God to save” (1 Cor 1:17, 18). However, that power is often absent from presentations and sermons regarding the cross. Paul considered the cross a “stumbling block” in his preaching (Gal 5:11; 6:12). Today the cross has become step ladder for financial success, social identity, spirituality, and political power. Perhaps we should recover the centrality of Jesus, the Jesus of the cross as opposed the cross of Jesus. What would happen if we tried to reflect the biblical emphasis of a person-centered, not symbol-centered faith?