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“The Old Rugged Cross”

As a child, I sat in the pew of my little church singing about “The Old Rugged Cross.” It was one of the most popular hymns of the day. As I sang, I meant every word of “So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross.”

When I was older, more enlightened and I must say cynical, I challenged the words of that song. I didn’t like praising a cross. I didn’t like singing that I would cherish a cross. After all, the cross did not save me, the man hanging on the cross did. So I could not sing it with the same fervor of an innocent child.

Now that I am an adult, I appreciate the song’s message. The cross is our modern day altar. Of course, we know it as a place of salvation, but it is much more than that. It is also a place of forgiveness, decisions, relationships and new beginnings.

The cross offers us a place of forgiveness, not only for our sins but also an example of forgiveness to others as well. The Roman soldiers were good at what they did and enjoyed it as well. There were trained to inflict pain. They spent most of their days inventing more monstrous ways to torture. Theirs was the most extreme example of man’s inhumanity to man.

We can look at them now and in our flesh hate them for what they did to our Savior. But Jesus didn’t. With every lash, with every drop of blood, with every word of scorn and every nasty glob of spit that was rendered to him by these men, Jesus was saying, “I love you; I forgive you.” And he did forgive them. If Jesus could forgive those who treated him so horribly, then we must forgive those who treated who have tread upon our feelings and caused us great heartache and pain. We have to forgive for God’s work says if we will not forgive others, He will not forgive us. (Matthew 6:15)

The cross is also a place of decision. In his pain, Jesus reached out to the two thieves who hung beside him. One thief decided to accept him. The other had the same opportunity but his heart was hardened and he rejected him. At that moment Calvary became the very first alter call for salvation and that altar is still open today. He gives everyone the opportunity to accept him. Some will, but others will hear the word and walk away missing the greatest gift man has ever been offered.

God created man to have fellowship with him. Before the cross, only the high priest could enter the presence of God through the Holy of Holies. Jesus is now our high priest and his presence is available to us at all times. The cross provided an opportunity to have a relationship with God through his son, Jesus. He still wants to be a part of our everyday life. He will be to you whatever you need him to be— friend, lover or Savior. He will be there when you need him. He wants to be a constant in our lives.

The cross is also a place of new beginnings. When the veil of the temple was rent it was a sign that the old covenant was out. No more animal sacrifices. The blood sacrifice was made on that old rugged cross where the precious blood of Jesus was shed for our redemption. We live no longer by the law. We live by faith.

Now that I understand what that old cross stands for, I can sing the song with new revelation. For the cross has provided me with forgiveness, relationship with God and a new beginning. I have decided to cherish that old rugged cross for without it, where would I be?