“If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” (Mark 8:34)
You’ve probably heard the expression, “It is my cross to bear” as someone bemoans the road ahead of them. That “cross” is usually referenced as a burden of a responsibility yet to be realized, or a relationship that is particularly difficult to manage or a health issue that is troubling with uncertainty about how to treat and/or deal with the reality of it. This phrase has also been used to perpetuate abuse, keep the status quo of inequitable power structures in place, or empower an inward self-aggrandizing martyrdom meant to either impress or shame others.
None of these sentiments capture what Jesus is actually calling for us to do. To Jesus, the cross is the fulfillment of his mission by his complete handing over of himself for the sake of those he loves. As a gift given and received, the cross becomes our embodiment of agape to share – by offering that same self-sacrificial love to others without any sense of what it may cost us personally.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “Whenever Christ calls us, his call leads us to death.” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer Discipleship. Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, Vol. 4 [Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1996], 87. An older translation reads: “When Christ calls a man, he bids him to come and die”).
In “taking up our cross,” Jesus isn’t asking for us just to fill a seat in a church building for an hour when it fits our schedule. He is asking for us to love him (and the people we encounter) so recklessly that it may cost us our very lives. Cross bearing holds nothing back wherever the road ahead of us leads. Taking that cross upon ourselves is an invitation to enter the suffering of others to love them like Jesus does.
The love found at the cross is what Jesus invites you to experience, live and share. It is a gift that calls us to die so that in Christ we live.
Who do you know that could use that kind of love right now?
What are you willing to deny to follow Jesus and the love of the cross?
What is holding you back?
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