“What Does That Cross Mean?” (Galatians 5:13)

One of my former dermatology residents participated in a medical missions trip to Vietnam, sponsored by a Christian organization. Upon her return, she gave a presentation to my laboratory, documenting several patients who received medical care from their team of physicians, dentists, optometrists, and nurses. Many treatments and procedures which we take for granted in the United States were unavailable and improvisation and creative collaboration were needed to care for many of the patients. I was presented with the microscope slides of an unfortunate patient who was afflicted with a lymphoma (cancer) of the right eye that had now spread to his left eye, leaving him completely blind. The nearest hospital that could adequately treat him was over 4 hours away by car.  The hospital pathologists had requested a consultation with me to assist them with the diagnosis. I did email the pathologists and a few days later, received a terse but polite reply. I have only received three additional consultations from this group of pathologists. Whether it was by their choice, a restrictive email and communication policy with outsiders, or some other reason, communication has been rare.


My resident confirmed my suspicions. She later told us, “There were several instances when patients would point to the cross I was wearing and ask, ‘What does that Cross mean?’ I had been warned by my medical team leader that some of these patients were government plants, probing us to see if we would share the gospel with them, an action that is specifically prohibited. If we did openly share the gospel, we would have been asked to immediately leave.”


For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.

Galatians 5:13 (ESV)


My resident’s recount was a sobering reminder that the religious freedom that exists in the United States can never be taken for granted. Our laws guarantee freedom of religion, a privilege that is increasingly under attack by a variety of activist groups. Yet, this very activity of fomenting attacks against Christians is protected by the same laws that protect Christians, a fact that is conveniently overlooked by these groups.


The price of freedom is costly. We must continue to pray for the persecuted and oppressed people living in countries, hostile to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Only by confessing and repenting of our sins and accepting Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, will we be truly free.


Love and trust the Lord; seek His will in your life.

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