Around Christmas last year, a Jewish friend of mine shared a photo from Israel, where three symbols were erected on an outdoor display, supposedly representing the three main monotheistic religions. There was a Jewish menorah, the Islamic Star and Crescent, and a Christmas tree.

I explained to her that a Christmas tree is not really a symbol of Christianity. To believers, the symbol of Christmas is baby Jesus in the manger. But the symbol of Christianity is the cross.

In many parts of the world, crosses are banished from public places, and in some countries, Christians are not allowed to wear a cross as a symbol of their faith. Is this cross so powerful that the powers of darkness must eliminate it? Consider the Coptic Christians, who for hundreds of years have tattooed the cross on their wrists as an indelible testimony of their faith, even in the face of brutal persecutions.

I received Christ as my Savior in 1971 when I was 17 years old and studying at the University of Texas. I really didn’t understand the concept of sin, nor the idea that someone could have died for me 2,000 years before. All I knew was that I needed help.

A Christian friend had answered a few of my questions with Bible verses and then asked me, “If you really want to know if Jesus is who He said He was, why don’t you just ask Him? If He doesn’t answer, you have lost nothing. If He does answer—you will know Him for yourself.”

She handed me a written prayer to repeat with her. The prayer asked forgiveness for my sins and thanked Jesus for having died on the cross for me. I didn’t understand these words and told her that I would just pray silently in my own words. She must have been skeptical that I would really pray, but I closed my eyes—and in contrast to my outward silence—I inwardly cried out with all my soul, Jesus, if You are who You say You are, please come help me! And He did! Within a week, I was not only certain that Jesus was the Son of God, but that He was now abiding in me and transforming my life.

Jesus quickly became my Best Friend, and for decades we have traveled the world together. I have loved His teachings in the Gospels and have found peace and safety in the knowledge of His unconditional love.

This Easter, in every country and under every circumstance and condition, there will be fellow believers contemplating the cross. What a privilege that we can join them.