The Old Rugged Cross
My favorite song of all time is the hymn “The Old Rugged Cross” by George Bennard. The first time I heard it, I was just a small child, listening to my dad sing it to us in our little bedroom in Auburn Hills, Michigan. I fell in love with the beautiful imagery and the amazing truths that are simple enough for a child to grasp, yet profound enough for theologians to puzzle over.
On a hill far away, stood an old rugged cross, the emblem of suffering and shame. The true horror of the Roman cross was unknown to me, but I still understood the ugliness of the object itself, and the use for which it was built.
And I love that old cross where the dearest and best for a world of lost sinners was slain. This ugly, brutal object was loved. Why? Not because it was lovely, but because of the One who gave himself willingly to it for all of us lost sinners. The sacrifice of Christ is what makes the cross beautiful.
So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross, ’til my trophies at last I lay down. I used to picture myself handing Jesus a pile of trophies that I had won and telling him that they meant nothing next to his gift on the cross. The cross outlasts any of our accomplishments. What Christ did on the cross is the only thing with true permanence.
I will cling to the old rugged cross, and exchange it someday for a crown. In the end, the only thing that matters is what I did with Christ’s gift. Did I cling to the old rugged cross and the blood shed on it as my only hope, or did I keep holding on to my trophies and try to do it on my own?
Oh, the old rugged cross, so despised by the world, has a wondrous attraction for me. For the dear Lamb of God left his Glory above to bear it to dark Calvary. Why should I be drawn to an instrument of torture and death? The natural world abhors those things, but to me, the cross speaks of something more than that. It speaks of a love so great that it knows no bounds and is willing to go to any depths to reach even a sinner like me.
In the old rugged cross, stained with blood so divine, a wondrous beauty I see. For ’twas on that old cross Jesus suffered and died to pardon and sanctify me. The blood Christ shed on the cross covers me and takes away my sin, but more than that, it makes me holy. Now I am no longer a sinner who is under wrath, that wrath has been paid for and I am forgiven. Now I am just as much God’s son as Jesus, through his atoning sacrifice and the cleansing power of his blood, God sees me as perfect.
To the old rugged cross I will ever be true, its shame and reproach gladly bear. Then he’ll call me someday to my home far away, where his glory forever I’ll share. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also the Greek.” Romans 1:16 ESV “And I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man also will acknowledge before the angels of God, but the one who denies me before men will be denied before the angels of God.” Luke 12:8-9 ESV We are called to a life of hardship, picking up our cross daily to follow Christ. In doing this, we share in his shame, the world will despise us, but we also share in his glory. One day he is returning to take us to be with him where he is, and on that day, every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. That will be the most amazing thing to experience, and for those who have embraced the old rugged cross and the Savior who died on it, it will be just the beginning of the wonders in store.
So I will always cherish “The Old Rugged Cross”. My love for the song has only grown over time, and one day, I’ll be able to sing it with all the others who have clung to the old rugged cross while we’re waiting in line for our crowns.