A number of months ago, I decided to start wearing my cross in a visible manner. Meaning, for years I’ve worn one, but under my shirt. Now, at work I wear it outside my shirt, but under my tie. The rest of the time, it’s outside of whatever casual shirt I’m wearing that day.
There were a number of factors that went into this decision. I have a friend who until a few months ago worked mentoring men recently released from prison. He always wore his cross on his chest. I also read an article about clergy wearing the collar in public and how it consciously affects the person wearing it and the one the people who see clergy wearing one.
I also reflected on my own response to seeing people wearing a cross openly. Granted there are many situations where it is fairly obvious the cross isn’t intended as a display for religious reasons but as a fashion statement, a trinket worn with other symbols: a heart, a star, a yin and yang, and maybe a unicorn. In those times when I saw someone wearing one in a serious way, I did perceive that person differently. Was their behavior out of line in my mind, or were they kindhearted and gentle?
In the United States, and most “Western” countries generally, there does not exist a distinct method of dress for Christians. In more predominately Eastern Orthodox counties the women may be veiled or wear a head covering of some kind. Additionally, in predominately Muslim countries, the Christians generally live in close proximity to one another. They are then distinguished by how they don’t look and behave like the majority religion’s adherents.
So I tried wearing it outside my shirt. I discovered I am quite conscious of it. It triggers an immediate sense of “dear Lord help me!” My Lord and Savior died on a cross. Because of that atoning sacrifice, He was resurrected and ascended into heaven. He has called me to himself, relieved me of my burden of sin and set me free to live in and through Him. I am one of his ambassadors of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5 18-21). For me then, it focuses my mind on how I behave.
At the same time I am aware of a stereotype. The sneering, judgmental usually old person typecast in movies as the bigoted or hypocritical “christian”. Nearly always there’s a large cross either worn around the neck or placed someplace prominently in the home. This person is cold and callous. This person usually appears to have ice water running through their veins rather than any sort of life giving red blood. I certainly don’t want to be this person nor do I wish to be associated with them in anyone’s mind.
So, as I thought about it, I realized I have no control over how others see me. And just because I have a particular stereotype stuck in my head doesn’t mean others have the same imagery floating around in their skulls. So I went with wearing it on the outside. It helps me to live in a manner worthy of the gospel (Philippians 1:27). There is a phrase used commonly in Anglican circles, usually around whether to go to confession with a priest (I tried finding the origin of the phrase and was unsuccessful): “all may, some should, none must.” So, for me, this is a I should. If it stirs me this much to desire to act in a manner of the upward calling, then I shall.