Can You Take it?
“. . . take up his cross . . .” Mark 8:34
It’s easier to talk about being gospel-centered than it is to actually live it. Formulated doctrines, creeds, standards and strategies for better living were never meant to be the focus of a life of faith. Christianity isn’t designed to make us improved versions of ourselves; it’s not even finding ways of developing a “deeper life.” We are not the subject of focus. We cannot participate in God’s work, but then insist on doing it our own way. We can’t live a life more like Jesus, by embracing a way less like Jesus. For the disciple, the Jesus way is the only way.
To be sure, to the first disciples, taking up the cross was a vague, hazy blur. Yet many are still cloudy as to what it’s all about. When Jesus summons His disciples to take up their cross, He’s not talking about ordinary, or even extraordinary, human burdens that we bear, but have no connection with discipleship to Jesus.
An illness may be painful, but it’s not our cross to bear. An injury may be inconvenient or tiresome, but it’s not our cross to bear. Difficulty in the marriage, trouble with the kids, conflict with friends or coworkers, all may be taxing and wearisome, but it’s not our cross to bear. Cross-bearing as a disciple of Jesus means nothing less than giving one’s whole life over to following Him.
For Jesus, the cross meant shame and humiliation. It was a criminal’s cross on which He hung. So cross-bearing are the events in our life which humble us, expose us, offend our pride, and reveal the evil that lurks within us. If we are to be His disciples, we are to take it up – that is to welcome it. The cross grinds us down so grace can get into every detail, both big and small.
The world says if you can’t escape it, then you drown it. If that doesn’t work, then strike back, and get angry, get even. Taking up the cross is radically different from the world. The action of taking up the cross defines us as disciples. It’s the continual action, not born on a whim, but an intentional choice, repeated again and again. In every season and situation, we welcome the nails driven through our pride and self-sufficiency, always looking to Him for the power.
Do you feel hurt when someone forgets your name? Do you get upset when you have to wait? Do you get offended at criticism? Have you lost your temper while playing sports? These are minor forms of the cross at work in your life, killing off our flesh. Will you take up the cross?