the cross as metaphorm, it’s implication for conversion

May 8, 2008

I think it was after reading some of the work of John de Gruchy that my dad told me about the cross as symbol or metaphor for a horisontal and a vertical conversion. We need to have a vertical conversion, a conversion to God, and a horizontal conversion, a conversion to our fellow human being.

I found the metaphor strange, and I have to admit, I still do. Not because I think it is wrong, but I guess it’s because I was trained to be as historical as possible, thus, the first thing I think when I hear something like this is: “the way the cross was built has nothing to do with what it meant, that is simply a construction”. And actually, I forgot about the image, until the last 24 hours.

As part of my reading for my dissertation I’m currently busy with Mission in Bold Humility: David Bosch’s Work Considered, so far it’s an excelent book. I think I’ll blog about it some more later on. One of the authors wrote about Bosch using this image, and then, in a public debate on rasicm today, professor Piet Meiring (if I remember correctly) also mentioned this image. So I’m reconsidering the image.

In spite of my historical thinking, I realize more and more that this image do bring together a very deep meaning of the cross. But first this. Protestants had a way of holding very strongly onto the cross and forgetting the other aspects of the life of Jesus (incarnation, life, death, resurrection etc). The Gospel according to Mark also kind of did this, so I guess there is something to say for the primacy of the cross, but I’d rather say that the cross is symbol for Christ, in all aspects of his life, death, resurrection etc.

Historically the cross has had a lot of interpretations which dealt with how it restore a relationship between God and man. I’m not going into the atonement argument which is so popular today now. I don’t understand this quite well, but it’s so central to theology over 2000 years, I can’t possibly deny this. Jesus is the door to the Father (Gospel of John). This is the vertical side, we convert to God, we restore a relationship between God and man. And sometimes this is the easy part.

The hard part, more so than not it would seem to me, is converting to our fellow human beings. This meaning of the cross is being considered more and more, for example when we start noticing the political reasons behind the crusifixion. Jesus was crucified because he himself was “converted” to his fellow human beings. The cross remain a symbol calling us to a different way of life, where the “other” is more important.

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3 Responses to “the cross as metaphorm, it’s implication for conversion”


  1. Nope, you’ve got it wrong. I said that many people used the cross in that way, but that John de Gruchy opened my eyes to a totally new way of looking at the cross, in that Jesus came to stand next to us and that hte horizontal bar would then rather indicate the love that God has for us and that God commands us to lower ourselves in front of other people (becoming their slaves) and in a certain way this relationship is then represented by the vertical bar. I never said that this was the meaning of the cross but that JdG really mixed things up with this metaphor. And the reason he did this was because people tend to say that the long (vertical) indicates our love for God and that the shorter (therefore less important) bar indicates our love for other people. Which is wrong, because in Jesus’ understanding the two love laws are equal.

  2. Cobus Says:

    quite possible that I didn’t remember correctly. Still, I found the image used twice in the past 24 hours. I’ll ask Piet Meiring about the prblem of people making the horizontal less important when I again see him, interesting thought…

  3. Ronald Says:

    It definitely was Prof Meiring. Unless we shared some kind of mass hallucination. :o)


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