Is It Okay to Wear a Crucifix?
Q. I'm a Protestant Christian and have worn a crucifix for a while now. I just found out that a crucifix (with Jesus on the cross) is normally considered to be Catholic. Protestants just wear empty crosses. Are Protestants so different from Catholics that it would matter whether or not I wear it?
A. I'm also a Protestant Christian and I love the crucifix, too. Seeing Christ on the cross inspires me because I think of God's sacrificial love. Does it matter that the crucifix is normally considered Catholic? Nope. I think it's great when Protestants wear a crucifix or Catholics wear an empty cross because both symbolize God's unfailing love for us. While the crucifix is a vivid reminder of the sacrificial love of God, the empty cross is a reminder that he rose from the dead.
The central idea behind both crosses is the same: Jesus. And that's what connects Protestants and Catholics. Both groups agree on two essentials: 1) Jesus is the Son of God; 2) he died for our sins and rose from the dead.
Some Protestant denominations (like Anglicans) have fewer differences with Catholicism than other denominations. While we must be careful about making too many generalizations or assumptions, Protestants and Catholics tend to have five major differences:
- The Catholic church teaches that Mary, like Jesus, was born without original sin. They also believe that she, like other Catholic saints, can speak to God for them.
- Catholics have a different leadership hierarchy than Protestants and look to one leader, the Pope. They believe that Scripture gives the Pope supreme and unquestionable authority to set church doctrine and interpret the Bible. Protestants believe that no matter what leaders or church councils say, the Bible has ultimate authority.
- Catholics believe in heaven and hell like Protestants, but also in a purgatory where souls are cleansed by punishment before entering heaven.
- Although it is often debated by theologians, Catholics put slightly more weight on doing good works (and acts like confessing their sins) to get to heaven than Protestants, who believe people are saved solely by God's grace.
- To Catholics, Christ's blood and body are physically present in communion and are consumed by believers. Most Protestants think of communion as a symbolic remembrance of what Christ did.
But even with these differences, Protestants and Catholics both claim that Christ died on the cross for their sins. For both groups of Christians, the crucifix can be a powerful reminder of what Jesus went through in order to bring us back to God.
Copyright © 2005 by the author or Christianity Today/Campus Life magazine.
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