Everyone is looking for just the right logo. Companies spend millions of dollars to find a little icon that will communicate what they offer in a memorable and compelling way. Nike’s logo is a little checkmark-looking symbol we call a swoosh. It is actually a stylized version of the wing from the Greek statute “Winged Victory,” and the word Nike itself comes from the Greek word for victory. Their logo is a swoosh; their brand is success.

Apple’s logo is, well, an apple. There is a story on the Internet that it was derived from the biblical tree of knowledge, but that may be urban myth. The logo, however, has come to represent the meeting of technology and intelligence at our fingertips. Their icon is an apple; their brand is smart.

McDonald’s logo is so well known that as bad as I am at art, this is the one that always gets recognized even when I draw it. The Golden Arches. On every continent they mean joy and gratification — the Happy Meal. Their logo is a pair of arches; their brand is pleasure.

Mercedes-Benz’s logo is a three-pointed star inside a circle. Inevitably, when I draw this one, people think it is the peace sign, but nobody is selling peace. The company chose a three-pointed star to express their engines’ dominion in land, sky, and sea. Their logo is a star-in-a-circle; their brand is power.

If you were to choose a logo for your life, what would it be?

All four logos are known around the planet, but none of them is the most famous logo in the world, the one symbol that has been around for centuries. You see it on tombstones and T-shirts, chapels and necklaces; it is the single most famous logo the world has ever seen.

A cross.

Because it has been around so long, people often look at the cross without thinking what it means. There is a story about a woman who walks into a jewelry store and asks for a cross. The clerk replies, “Do you want an empty one, or one with a little man on it?”

The cross was not empty.

Crosses were a way of killing people. Devised by the Persians and popularized by Alexander the Great, the cross was perfected by the Romans as a means of deterring rebellion. It was intended to be both painful and humiliating; the English word “excruciating” comes from the Latin word for crucifixion.

Jesus himself said, “Whoever would come after me must deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow me.” It was this image that came to represent the movement associated with Jesus.

Think about how strange this is: In its beginnings, this little movement called Christianity struggled under persecution, trying to attract people to become part of their cause, and the symbol they used to represent their message was not an icon of success, knowledge, pleasure, or power. They chose a symbol universally understood to represent scandal, failure, and death.

Who would choose a means of execution as their company logo? Imagine the electric company hiring a marketing consultant who advises them to make their primary image a little electric chair, with the catchy little slogan underneath, “The power is on.”

When Jesus invited his followers to “take up their cross,” it was not a call to annihilation. It was a call to spiritual greatness in the divine conspiracy of sacrificial love. Human beings were offered a cause worth living for, dying for, and being resurrected for. God was reconciling all things to himself, and evil, sin, death, and guilt were about to receive their eviction notice.

The cross was not empty. There was a man on it.

Now you and I have something worth living for, dying for, and being resurrected for — something more than success, smarts, pleasure, or power. The God of the cross is renewing and creating all things to flourish through the power of sacrificial love.

And we get to be a part.

John Ortberg, The Me I Want to Be: Becoming God’s Best Version of You (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2009).

We have just completed a Bible study based on John Ortberg’s book, The Me I Want to Be. It consists of 7 lessons with ready-to-use questions suitable for groups. It can be purchased on Amazon and is also available as part of Good Questions Have Groups Talking Subscription Service.