It may surprise you what theology may be encountered in a fast food joint. More to the point, who would have thought that Taco Bell could become a classroom on the Cross? Some background is in order. Label me “simple” or simply “cheap,” but I freely admit that I am a Taco Bell connoisseur. I first frequented the Bell for financial reasons as a struggling college professor—where else could I eat my fill for well under $5, or feed my family for under $10? I continue through the years out of preference for the flavor as well as deference to the budget-friendly prices. These days, I have introduced my grandkids to the dollar menu, and my oldest grandson knows he can talk me into a Taco Bell run most any time of day or night, which explains why one of my favorite stocking stuffers from my wife this Christmas was a three-pack of Taco Bell gift cards—she knows me so well.
I ordered my usual lunch selections just yesterday, filled my cup with diet soda, but was forced to sit in what is not my usual table because another gentleman had beaten me to it. While waiting for my name to be called to collect my bean burrito and chalupa supreme, I glanced over at the man at my customary table. He appeared roughly my age, bore a day or two’s growth of whiskers, and was dressed in dungarees, sweatshirt, and a low profile ball cap. I saw my reflection in the window and couldn’t help thinking how much we resembled one another. He neatly arranged his food in front of him, much like I am accustomed to doing, but he disrupted the similarities by doing the unexpected—he crossed himself before bowing his head, and sat in silence for a minute or so before raising his head and unwrapping what looked to me to be a quesarito. A simple gesture and unobtrusive prayer, but it set me to thinking, and I spent the remainder of my lunch (and the balance of my day for that matter), reflecting on the practical and eternal centrality of the cross of Christ.
“The fact that a cross became the Christian symbol, and that Christians stubbornly refused, in spite of the ridicule, to discard it in favor of something less offensive, can have only one explanation. It means that the centrality of the cross originated in the mind of Jesus himself. It was out of loyalty to him that his followers clung so doggedly to this sign.” (John Stott, The Cross of Christ, p. 31)
The cross of Christ is the center of all faith in God for good reason. I may not cross myself before meals or when entering a church building, but in a very real sense, every created thing is a sign that points back to the cross. All things are either hidden behind the cross, or exposed by the cross. I cling to the rough and weather beaten cross of Jesus, because it is my only hope for this life and the life to come.
“Life is wasted if we do not grasp the glory of the cross, cherish it for the treasure that it is, and cleave to it as the highest price of every pleasure and the deepest comfort in every pain. What was once foolishness to us—a crucified God—must become our wisdom and our power and our only boast in this world.” (John Piper, Don’t Waste Your Life)