How do you know if a church building is actually a church? That might sound like a weird question so let me rephrase. How do you know if the building you are looking at is a church or not? For as long as architects have designed buildings they have included key features that set specific structures apart from those that surround them. When we built our church there was an understanding by some that we would put a steeple on top. When some of the younger members responded with indifference the traditionalist replied, “Every church has a steeple.” That used to be true, but in the modern movement today’s congregations are electing to remove traditional symbols so as to be more inviting to outsiders. But how far is too far when removing traditional symbols of our faith? Last year a Catholic school in California removed statues of the Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ because they felt they could be alienating to those who were outside of the Catholic faith. https://townhall.com/tipsheet/mattvespa/2017/08/26/too-alienating-catholic-school-removes-statues-of-the-virgin-mary-and-jesus-n2373209
This move might remind you that it was also last year when our country began a purge of Confederate statues and monuments that some found offensive. Now that a year has passed, have these moves done anything to bring us closer together? Has enrollment in the school in California increased since they removed the Baby Jesus? Do we have a greater understanding of our past and present? Removing symbols is one thing but the reasoning behind the move is completely another. During this process it has reviled something often times hidden inside of us, and that is the real problem that needs to be addressed. Do we really understand the meaning behind these symbols or do we use them as an excuse for failures within our own character and choices.
Let me give you another example. Today I read about a Baptist church congregation in South Carolina that has voted to remove a statue of Jesus Christ because they believe it is too "Catholic" for their place of worship. After being displayed at their church for over 10 years the pastor informed the artist by letter that “some in the congregation believe the image of Christ standing with his arms outstretched is "Catholic in nature."
Really? Can Jesus be too Catholic? Look at the statue in question. Outstretched, open armed Jesus, welcoming people to Himself is too Catholic? I thought that was what the Gospel message was all about. You know (I hope) there is more to the story than that, but it goes to my point. Symbols are powerful in meaning but when people begin exercising their personal feelings toward universal symbols, that “power” takes on another meaning all together. When did certain Christian groups begin claiming images of Jesus only to themselves?
The Bible is full positive examples of using symbolism to point the witness to ask questions or to invoke a memory. One of the best examples is when Samuel places a stone of remembrance, calling it an Ebenezer (1 Samuel 7:12). However, God warns us, even commands us against images. In Exodus 20:4 we are commanded to not make an image of anything on this earth because it could lead us to worship it before we worship God. Some people take this so strictly that they will not allow spiritual decorations such as crosses or statues in their church. The activities of some in recent days might prove this point. Images can be very helpful but do we worship the image or are we mindful of its meaning? Does it help us or have we let it become a distraction from what it was original established to do? An image should alter our behavior by bringing to mind what it represents in the past, present and future. Do we allow a symbol to direct our thoughts and behavior for the good or do we point to it and blame it for the evil we cling to for a group of people or place in history? Have we actually taken the time to discover the original meaning and purpose or have we allowed a few in our society to direct the conversation?
Little children, keep yourselves from idols. 1 John 5:21
Serving the Savior,
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