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Holding Constantine’s Sword in Our Hands

Let us remember that as Jesus hung on the cross, the sword of the centurion stayed in its sheath and the most dramatic revolution that our world has ever seen occurred—not because of a sword, but because of the cross.

“You know what you get when you turn the cross upside down?” he asked. Quickly he supplied the answer: “You get a sword!”<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” /> 
When you turn the cross upside down, you get a sword. It’s an uncomfortable truth that has plagued the church throughout its history. 
It began even before the cross, when Peter used a sword to cut off the ear of the high priest’s servant in an effort to forestall the crucifixion. But Jesus healed the man, turned Peter’s sword upside down and hung there in suffering obedience. 
With the coming of the emperor Constantine, the <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />Roman Empire became the Holy Roman Empire. When Constantine had a vision of the cross before battle, he was converted. He then chose the cross as his emblem and terrorized and conquered under the sign of the cross.  
When the cross is turned upside down, it becomes a sword. 
In the Middle Ages, there was not enough land or money to keep the feudal lords happy. The answer from the church: Take Jerusalem and the Holy Land back from the infidels and claim them as its own. And so began the crusades, where the cross once again was turned on its head. 
Even today, the cross seems to spin around as the spirit of war and retaliation hovers above us and is voiced on the nightly news.  
Sadly, Christians seem to be some of the people at the front of the line saying that God loves America above all others. We need to go to war, they say, and protect our Christian nation against the heathens.  
But we need to remember it is never the cross and the sword, but always the cross or the sword. How we lift it determines what it is. 
Let us pray for peace. Let us remember that as Jesus hung on the cross, the sword of the centurion stayed in its sheath and the most dramatic revolution that our world has ever seen occurred—not because of a sword, but because of the cross. 
Bob Fox is pastor of Faith Baptist Church in Georgetown, Ky.