What Does It Mean To Take Up My Cross?
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20
It is no sin to be a Christian, for sure. But I have to confess, at times it is mighty inconvenient. It interferes with what you want to do. Your conscience condemns you and refuses to let you do what you would probably have done, had you not met Him who said, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me" (Luke 9:23).
When Jesus called people, He interrupted their goals, their plans, their life works and their consciences as well. The more they know Him, the more they came to understand that following Jesus was not a part-time vocation but an absolute, all-encompassing commitment. And that is why on more than one occasion, some turned away and ceased to follow him.
Why couldn't Christ have rallied the troops around something more attractive than a Roman gallows where losers ended up and all hope was destroyed? Could His teachings not have been more esoteric? More talk about love and life and less about death and dying? God apparently thought not, because He gave His son, and from the cloths which became baby blankets to Golgotha where Jesus was crucified, the cross loomed on the horizon.
"And," said Jesus, "if you are to follow me, you, too must take up your cross." There is one difference, however, between what Jesus did and what He expects us to do. It's all found in the one word which Luke included. It is the word daily, which shifts the location from a hill outside of Jerusalem to the front room of my house where I live. It becomes planted in the office where less-than-nice people annoy me, where I am forced to decide if something is unethical or immoral, or just "good business."
Instead of one heroic "go for it" commitment, it becomes an ongoing series of decisions and judgments which changes my lifestyle. John Henry Newman had this in mind when he wrote, "To take up the cross of Christ is no great action done once for all; it consists in the continual practice of small duties which are distasteful to us." (Newman as quoted by Elisabeth Elliot.
In a very real and practical sense, taking your cross means you are no longer in control or at liberty to decide some issues. Your morality is at stake, the way you do business is an issue, your language, your politics, your leisure, your money, your time all become cross-related issues. Yes, taking your cross and following Jesus can be quite confining.
A man whom I have admired, A. W. Tozer, in his book Of God and Men, wrote, "The man with a cross no longer controls his destiny; he lost control when he picked up his cross. That cross immediately became to him an all-absorbing interest, an overwhelming interference."
There is one more thought which I must leave with you. Biographies have always been of interest to me. I think it's come from the desire to try to learn what qualities are found in the lives of godly people which I can incorporate in my life, thus making me more effective for God.
But here's my point. Never--whether it is in the memoirs of the great heroes of the faith or of little-known figures of history who were devout and committed--have I found anyone who came to the end and said, "I regret that I crossed the great continental divide of faith, or drew a line in the sand and stepped across it as I took up my cross and followed Jesus."
But I have met thousands of men and women all over the world, including saints in China and Russia who paid dearly for taking up that cross, who have said, "I'd do it again, and walk every step of the way all over again." That has to say something.
Resource reading: Mark 15:1-47