Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross and follow me. If you try to hang onto your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.”
I would love to have been sitting among the disciples as Jesus said this. They must have been astounded. See, we have the benefit of reading long after crucifixion had ceased to be a form of punishment, but in Jesus' time, crucifixion was a common occurrence.
The imagery of grabbing a cross, willingly, was unfathomable. Yet, that is exactly what the disciples were risking by following Christ. For us, centuries later, we touch a shiny polished cross around our neck and feel great about being a follower of Christ. For the disciples then, the cross was not tiny or shiny. It was terrifying.
What does it mean today to “take up your cross” for Jesus? Does it involve spending more time serving others, despite the strong desire to do something “fun” with your time? Does it mean risking your reputation by standing up for your beliefs in public? Does it mean giving money to a Christian charity, even though you'd love to save up for a new car?
What does our modern day cross look like? Today, we fear losing our reputation and comfort as much as we fear losing our lives. We worry about what someone will think if they find out we aren't “tolerant” enough on political issues. We wonder if we will get a promotion if our boss knows that we place top priority on God and family. We experience the stress and pain of “not fitting in” so that we can find a place in God's eternal kingdom.
Sometimes we hold on to our old ways simply because we're used to it and they don't seem that bad. They certainly aren't risky. Like a passenger on a sinking ship, holding onto the anchor so that they won't fall into the water, we sink as soon as we hit rough seas. The only anchor that won't dislodge in our lives is God. We need to give him our lives so that we can live with him eternally one day.
If we want to take up our cross, we will reach out to people who seem below us, live a life of integrity in a business that discourages honesty and make financial choices that allow us to provide support for the kingdom rather than things for our home. Today our cross will break our reputation rather than our body. Yet, like the disciples in the New Testament, we need to forsake what is comfortable for what is eternal. Each step on the road of life must be placed carefully with the knowledge that we bear the cross of Jesus. However, our burden is not borne by us alone, for by accepting the cross of Jesus, we also accept his unwavering support. We may not know where the path ahead will lead, but we know that we will not walk it alone.
We live our lives forgetting the gift you have given us. We forget that our ability to live a life unburdened by sin is at great cost to you. Help us to live each day, mindful of the cross you bore for us, accepting the risk to our lives and reputation, confident that our reward is in heaven.