The cross is a symbol of Christian communities and faith in Messiah. Not so much within the Messianic Jewish world.
Many Jews and Messianic Jews avoid the symbolism of the cross as it invokes images of the Crusades and church-sponsored persecutions rather than the atoning death and resurrection of the Messiah. Jewish culture strongly associates the image of the cross with idolatry, so you don’t find too many crosses in the Messianic Jewish movement.
At our meetings in China, we encountered many fashionable, bright, and enthusiastically Christian young women. And in China, where Yeshua-faith can cost you a lot, these young ladies wear the cross prominently and proudly. China’s Christian girls proved themselves to be sharp, astute, and engaged in every session. It was really something special to address them and the many eager students we met. Their questions demonstrated that they are careful thinkers and that they have engaged the texts. They are good representatives of the crosses they proudly wear.
If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. (Matthew 16:24)
One young lady caught my attention. After one of my first sessions, she impressed me with her articulate and well-thought out questions. As she elaborated and shared her thoughts and questions, it became clear to me she was sincere and passionate about her faith. Then she said, “I am not yet baptized, I have not made a commitment to faith, some people have rebuked me, but I want to be sure I believe.”
I was stunned. I was sure, based upon her questions she was already a devout follower of the Messiah. She asked if she could receive more of our teaching, and I expressed that I regret that most of our teachings are only in English. She indicated that she would prefer the “original” versions anyway. “English? Not a problem, we can get you set up with many resources.”
I immediately got her set up with our FFOZ Core—which contains many free FFOZ resources, and I registered her for an online HaYesod course. Unlike Google and Facebook, our website is still accessible from China. I introduced her to the FFOZ website and our online resources. After these conversations, our host from the local church came to me and said, “The young lady you were helping on the computer is not yet a believer; she is here learning and seeking, but has yet to make a commitment.” She had essentially, already told me that much, but I was still surprised.
Her commitment to learning, her in-depth questions, and her biblical knowledge seemed to exceed that of many seasoned and professing Christians. Perhaps, for her, the cost of commitment of Yeshua faith is more significant than it is for us. Perhaps, for her, the jeopardy her faith would place her in has caused her to make sure she is willing to make this commitment and not look back.
For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, “This man began to build and was not able to finish.” (Luke 14:28-30)
As I got to know her, I thought of the early disciples and the serious commitment they asked others to make to discipleship. The easy “believism” culture we see today is a recent phenomenon in the history of our faith and practice. When you come to a culture like China where discipleship demands a steep cost, and you see devoted followers and all that they risk for the Master, it forces you to rethink your own faith, and feel ashamed for taking it for granted.
At the conclusion of several days of teachings, we circled back around to talk about the work of Messiah, the assurance of salvation we have in him, and his love for us. While Daniel was closing the last session, I felt as if we should make space for people to come and pray with us and make a commitment to faith in Messiah. The circumstances, however, did not allow me to act on that impulse. Once the event had concluded and people were leaving, however, the young lady came up to me, teary-eyed and sobbing. She said through the tears, “I know that we are one in Messiah.”
I am not sure what happened. I am praying that she made that commitment to the Master because we need more disciples like her. Next time I see her, I hope she is wearing a cross on her necklace.