In doing research for my Messiah post, below, I learned about the case, now several years old, of chaplain Michael Hiles. The basic facts from 2008 don't appear to be in question: The U.S. military has a very limited number of insignias for its chaplains to wear. After examining the tenets of Messianic Judaism, the Navy decided that Hiles, as a Messianic Jewish chaplain, should wear the cross instead of the tablets of the law. Hiles refused and chose to leave the military rather than wearing the cross.
This bothers me. For the record, I do not believe that Hiles wanted to deceive anyone by wearing the rabbinic insignia. That is not where my concern lies. But there really is a problem with a person who claims to be a committed and loving follower of Our Lord Jesus Christ but who is unwilling to be identified with the cross. For these purposes I'm simply uninterested in hearing about, e.g., the evils of the Crusades.
The Apostle Paul said, "God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of Christ." (Galatians 6:14) Significantly, in the context Paul is specifically contrasting his glorying in the cross with his glorying in the legal observance of circumcision. Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself told us that if we will be His disciples we must take up our cross and follow Him (Matt. 16:24).
Paul called the crucifixion of Christ a "stumbling block" to the Jews (I Cor. 1:23). But he meant the unbelieving Jews. If one has accepted the claims of Jesus and believes in His resurrection, one is supposed to see the stumbling block as the chief cornerstone (Mark 12:10-11, I Peter 2:6-8).
I see part of the problem here as coming from the idea that we can define everything for ourselves. The idea appears to be that, if the cross meant something offensive or historically bothersome "to" Mr. Hiles, or if he preferred to define his own identity more closely in terms of the tablets of the law, he should be free to choose the Jewish symbol instead of the Christian one.
But reality doesn't work that way. Sometimes symbols are chosen for us. We are not simply self-created beings who get to make all our own meanings for all our own symbols. This is particularly true when we are talking about God-made and God-chosen symbols. There, if nowhere else, it behooves us to shut up and row (as my old blogging friend Zippy says in a different context). And in this case, "shut up and row" means, "Wear the cross, Chaplain Hiles. Be not ashamed."
There are not any mere symbols. If ever it were true that a symbol is not a mere symbol, it is true of the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, that sign of ultimate shame which God chose to make the glorious means of victory--that he who by a tree was once the vanquisher might also by a Tree be vanquished.
Therefore, my beloved brethren, let us glory in the cross.