There are many ways to potty train a kid (There’s an opening line worthy of a pastor’s column). Some parents let their child set the pace of potty training; some use positive reinforcement. At my house, we have resorted to general extortion and bribery. Please don’t judge; it’s quite effective.
However, there are some unintended consequences to offering a sticker, treat or sucker every time my little 2-year-old daughter goes to the bathroom. On a recent evening at a local football game, my daughter spotted an entire family with suckers. Quickly she pointed at them and loudly proclaimed, “THEY WENT TO THE POTTY!!!” (I had no answer for the confused looks we received).
For my daughter, a sucker has one particular meaning – a reward. The sweet, pink, circular goodness-on-a-stick is, to her, a symbolic triumph of all her efforts, attempts and, well, tinkles.
Followers of Christ also have a few symbols, none more important than the cross. Many years ago it was an instrument of death – a torturous, painful death. There was certainly no appeal or honor in death by crucifixion. It was not only a cruel, harsh punishment; it was an effective deterrent as well.
But Christ’s sacrifice on the cross turned that symbol into something else. It is Jesus’ triumph over death, His victory over the grave and His act of love for all of us sinners in need of a Savior.
So we take the symbol of the cross and we put it on our churches, decorate our walls, wear it around our necks, and maybe even tattoo it on our bodies. Every time we see it, it triggers something within. We never want to forget the literal suffering, sacrifice, death and resurrection. The cross is our reminder to confess our sins, to forgive others, to love sacrificially and to place our faith in our Savior.
That cross may just be a wooden piece for some; it may be an instrument of torture and death for others. But it’s a sign of victory, power and saving grace for us.
“For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” 1 Corinthians 1:18 (NIV)
Billy Byler is the lead pastor at First Church of the Nazarene in Winfield.