For the past week I have had one consistent thought attach itself to my thought processes. It is more of a question than a thought. I find it popping up as I prepared my sermon last week, as I ate at Chili’s on Thursday night, at the football game Friday, in Church Sunday morning, and at the beach yesterday. The question, or thought, is this: What does it really mean to pick up our cross and follow Jesus?
People throw out that term quite casually in society today in reference to any degree of annoyance or burden present in one’s life. Our annoying neighbor, our broken leg, our unsatisfying job, etc. All are examples of things we casually refer to as our crosses that we are forced to bear in this life; but, are these really what Jesus was referring to?
Did Jesus really mean that discipleship would simply cost us putting up with the trials in life that everyone faces? As I have grappled with this thought and pursued it in meditation and reading and study I have come to the conclusion that myself and many of us who are following Christ have greatly misappropriated this phrase Jesus used as one condition of discipleship.
The best definition I could find for what it really means to take up our cross is this: Our cross is that which we do voluntarily as a consequence of our commitment to Jesus Christ. Cross-bearing requires deliberate sacrifice and exposure to risk and ridicule in order to follow Jesus.
So taking up our cross means being about the work God has called us to and that we willingly respond to and accept, even, or especially when it requires sacrifice and leads to risk, ridicule, and other negative reactions.
The trouble with the phrase, “taking up your cross” is that it fills me with the image of lugging this heavy, rough, overly-cumbersome burden that threatens overwhelm and exhaust me before I am able to truly follow Jesus very far. Maybe the implications of this image is why Jesus says in Matthew 11:30 that we should rest in Him because His rest it easy and His yoke is light.
Some of this stuff came out in my sermon yesterday and I felt like I hadn’t come to a definitive application point for my own thoughts on what it really meant to take up my cross and follow Jesus. So of course my words during the sermon probably seemed muddled and confusing; and so, I thought I would blog some of my further thoughts this morning in hopes of possible clarification and probable confusion at the murky nature of this post.
Final Thought: I believe Jesus is pointing us to something much deeper and to sacrifices much greater than simply putting up with the trials of life, as hard as they maybe to put up with. My fear is that we would fool ourselves into believing annoying neighbors and family members, health problems, and other trials of life are our crosses to bear and settle for this cheap imitation of discipleship and therefore miss out on the opportunity for true cross-bearing, and deep, intimate discipleship.
So, where is the evidence in your life that you are taking up your cross and following Jesus? Where are you willingly living out that which is a consequence of your commitment to Jesus Christ and that is requiring deliberate sacrifice?