History pronounces that the phenomenal title 'Christian' was conferred upon the disciples / followers of ‘Christ’ by non-believers at Antioch in Syria in the 1st century AD. The American heritage dictionary defines the word ‘Christian’ as “Manifesting the qualities or spirit of Jesus; being Christ like".
Jesus defined ‘Discipleship' as “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35) and the service liturgy by churches of all denominations of Christianity highlight that, “Jesus said the second most important commandment is that Love thy neighbor as you love yourself”. However, though each one of us Christians invariably recite this and many other verses on “Loving one another”, “Christian Love”, “Compassion of Christ”, ect., etc., majority of us never “Walk the Talk / Practice what we Preach” because this was not only the second most important commandment of Christ but, is also the most difficult commandment to follow in our practical 21st Millenium’s hi-tech fast-track lifestyle. Why so? To find an efficacious answer to this soul-searching primer, we have to directly look upto Jesus and explore His following ‘pre-conditioner’ clause to His disciples:
“And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:27). Here, what Jesus means when He mentioned ‘Cross’? More critically significant would be to find out what the cross that Jesus carried upto the Calvary meant and symbolizes for all of us? “The world knows that the phenomenal cross Jesus carried contained all of mankind’s sins, inequalities, failures, pains, deficiencies & not an ounce of any of His own". Therefore, it is clear that when Jesus asked His disciples to carry their crosses if they have to be His disciples, He specifically indicated “they must carry the burdens of others”. And that is what exactly is also symbolize by the second most important commandment of Jesus, i.e. “Love Thy Neighbor”, which once again steers us towards the introspective question on what in Christological terms indicated to us in Luke 14:27 specifically.
We asked the question what is our cross? Once again we saw the cross of Christ, not so much the physical cross He carried to Golgotha but rather the 'spiritual burden' commencing with His precious perspiring prayer at Gethsemane. Our cross is finding out those things that we want to cling to and being willing to release them to God to be used as God sees fit.
"Anyone who does not carry his cross and follow Me cannot be My disciple". He is calling us to take up our cross. He is calling us to follow Him. As we think about Christ's cross, we think of Him stumbling, tripping and falling under the burden of our dreadful sins, our deficiencies & inequalities, etc. The way of the cross is not an easy way. We do however have the help of the risen Lord. He comes to us. He lives in us. He gives us His joy. We are to live a Christ-like life. 'We are to follow Christ and love one another, carry each other's burdens & qualify to be a true disciple / followers of Jesus'.
Most people take the above text and apply it to personal illness or trials. The cross that Christ speaks of has absolutely nothing to do with illness and corruption. We have inherited illness and corruption in this life because our forefather Adam brought upon himself and the entire mankind the scorching fury & wrath of God drowning & drenching in appalling & outrageous sin, i.e. “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned” (Romans 5:12). Our illness, whether it be cancer, arthritis, Alzheimer's or even a common cold or influenza, has nothing to do with choice.
I beseech you to listen my beloved brethren, "The Cross on the other hand is not thrust upon us, nor is it an unnatural result of Adam's sin but, the Cross is inevitably 'a choice made' by us on our own will and exclusive decision. The Cross is a selfless act of one so that another might be blessed. The Cross was not thrust upon Christ but it was a choice that He made for our benefit. Jesus prayed 3 times in the Garden of Gethsemane that, "if it possible, dear Father, let this cup – the Cross- pass from Me". Yet Jesus each time ended His prayer with "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will" (Matthew 26:39). God the Father gave the Son an opportunity to step outside of His comfort Zone so that 'whosoever will' could be saved. Christ was not forced to the Cross, nor was the Cross about His own personal suffering.
The message of the Great Commission that Christ has ministered to us through carrying His cross was that, "the Christian is not saved just so he can go to heaven and avoid hell but, the Christian is saved so that he or she can be a disciple of Christ, to learn of Him, to make a positive impact on the world around us, to be a person of purpose, of God's purpose". Amen.