I’ve been reading Leonard Verduin’s book, The Reformers and Their Stepchildren for my Baptist Heritage class at Southwestern this semester. In it, I came across a very startling and sobering reminder.
The author writes of Constantine, and his “vision” of a cross in the clouds along with the words “in hoc signo vinces” (in this sign conquer), which led him to declare Christianity as the official religion of Rome, paint crosses on his soldiers’ shields, and attempt to return Rome to her former glory. Verduin writes,
This was to read a new and totally strange meaning into the “Cross.” Is the Cross of Christ then a thing whereby emperors’ ambitions are realized? A device that sees the political aspirations of a power-hungry ruler through to victory? Surely Constantine had grasped little or nothing of the ideas set forth in the Cross of Christ!
And yet Constantine’s misapplication of the cross is ours as well. How many have gone to Christ in effort to receive their selfish desires, their narcissistic ambitions, their grabs for power?
How many times have I?
How much ink has been spilled and sermons written that teach that Jesus is “for us,” that his desire is to “increase us,” and “make much of us?” Isn’t this the message that we long to hear?
We are all children of Constantine.
So many are willing to take only as much Jesus and Christianity as needed to gain what they truly desire – which usually includes some sort of financial blessings, physical blessings, and selfish gain.
But at the cross, we’re called to give all of that up for the sake of Christ.
The Cross is not the guarantee of our pursuits, but the declaration that Christ has conquered sin, shame, hell, and death. We don’t conquer by this sign. We surrender to the reality that by that sign, we have been conquered. We cease our attempts to make much of ourselves and fall on our faces and worship, and bring glory to the One who so rightly deserves it.