Tag: Cross

Which Cross are You Carrying? Suffering or Love?

Suffering

This is a follow-up to my post, Take Up Your Cross. In the previous post, I made the confession “I no longer believe taking up your cross is all about suffering. I find it has so much more to do with grace, humility, hope and love.” God has been churning that confession in my heart. As such, I believe it deserves expounding. 

As Christians, we are familiar with Luke 9:23 “If any of you want to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me.” Most often, the most familiar teaching attached to this verse has to do with the suffering associated with following Jesus – and how we have to choose to partake in His suffering (i.e. taking up our cross.) We made suffering “the way” of Jesus. 

I would suggest there is a greater lesson to be understood. I am not discounting any sermons associated with this passage or the fact that we are called to join Jesus in His suffering. However, we, or at least I, have often missed the bigger picture of Jesus’ instructions for following Him.

Does Following Mean Suffering?

Every time Jesus talks about others hating us or suffering as His followers (Matthew 10:22Matthew 24:9John 15:19-22 and Acts 9:16) He tells us it will happen as a result of following Him. I believe the reigning choice, is not to suffer, but rather to follow Him, which will inevitably include suffering. Most specifically, I suggest we may have been focusing on an outcome, when in fact the focus is on being His follower. Suffering will come, but after the choice to follow.

He never gave us the choice to suffer, except in following Him. Nor does He command us to suffer. He doesn’t say, “Follow me by suffering”. He never commands suffering, but tells us, if you choose me you will be hated and suffer. He also assures trials and tribulation. He doesn’t say we can avoid it, or that we can choose when, where or what. He is clear suffering will come. So suffering isn’t the choice, but taking up our cross is. Remember “If”?

I’ve been praying and meditating on what the practical and visible choice of taking up our cross looks like. I’m convinced it’s love. Jesus said love God, love others, love each other, and make disciples. I’m confident that our choice to love others is the cross Jesus meant for us to take up. Here’s why. Like I mentioned in the previous post, Jesus made it a habit of turning what we thought we knew on its ear. He routinely changed how we interpreted following God. The cross is no exception. He took an instrument of pain, suffering, and death and turned it into a vehicle of love, forgiveness, and life. Since His crucifixion, the cross hasn’t been seen the same way. We even wear them on chains around our necks!

Love, Not Suffering

Jesus didn’t come for the sake of suffering. He came for the sake of love. What happened to Him while on earth as a man should never overshadow why He allowed it to happen to Him. It was because of His love for us. Telling us to take up our cross has little to do with suffering. Instead, He asks us to choose to turn from our selfishness, love others (that is taking up our cross) and follow Him. Loving those that are lovable is easy, but try loving those that aren’t. It feels a lot like cross bearing when we have to CHOOSE to love someone we don’t want to love, or feel is undeserving.

Our choice is not to suffer. Our choice is to love God and love others, which sometimes brings suffering. Suffering is not the way of His followers; love is the way of His followers. We choose daily to love God, and everyone else that we come in contact with, regardless of how we feel about them. And every day we choose which cross we will bear.

Are you carrying the cross of suffering? Or are you carrying the cross of love?

Take Up Your Own Cross…

…then, when it becomes too heavy, ask someone to help you carry it.

Your Cross

photo credit: theramp.org

In the past I’ve struggled to understand what Jesus meant in Luke 9:23 when He said, “…take up his cross daily…” I get the sharing in suffering with Jesus part, and the theology behind it, but I’m no longer content with just knowing the theology. I need to know the deeper, soul stirring intimacy of daily taking up my cross with Jesus. I’ve read The Ragamuffin Gospel and it’s helped me understand a little. I no longer believe it is all about suffering. I believe taking up the cross has so much more to do with grace, humility, hope, and love.

At my core, I believe community is necessary. Even imperative. Because of that, I feel confident that cross carrying is a gospel-centered community event. For some time, I did not have the scriptural grounds to support my belief. However, it made sense to me.

Jesus’ Cross

In meditating on the moment where Jesus carried His cross to Calvary, God paused my heart. When Jesus fell under the crushing weight of His cross, a man named Simon of Cyrene, lifted it and carried it with Him.

Jesus undoubtedly could have carried the cross for days, unabated. But there is something so profound happening here, that if missed, will cause us to struggle unnecessarily and significantly. What Jesus said in Luke 9:23, He explains and demonstrates in Luke 23:26 at the moment Simon carries His cross.

In their culture, it was disgraceful to carry a condemned man’s cross. Jesus would have known that. But, just as with everything else, Jesus turned what was known on its ear. God the Son could have carried His own cross. However, Jesus knew we were not capable of such a feat. So He carried His cross in the flesh, as a man. Jesus the man was broken and weak from exhaustion and blood loss. Jesus the man NEEDED Simon to carry His heavy burden with Him. In that moment, Jesus showed us communal cross bearing is the way for His followers. We are not made or called to carry our cross alone. Jesus is there. And He has provided His people. We pick up ours and other’s crosses. We do it together and we call it church and community and grace and love.

Your Cross

If Jesus expected us to carry our cross alone, He would have done the same. But He didn’t. And He does not expect us to go it alone. Jesus provided us with the accounting of His own need for help in carrying His cross. Now we have the confidence that our Savior knows and understands just how hard it can be to be alone. And even more so, He showed us the importance of community stepping up and in, to lighten our burden.

Whether you ask for help, or are Simon for another, rest assured that Jesus does not want us to allow others to suffer alone, or for you to go it alone.

“…when it becomes too heavy, ask someone to help you carry it.”

Equality for All

I’ve recently read some great blogs surrounding the whole same gender marriage issue.  Most talked about loving others regardless.  Some supported, some opposed.  From a facts perspective, both had very valid points.  One of my favorites brought up the point that we (as Christians) have let this issue distract (<–that’s the link to the blog) us from the point of this weekend… Jesus.  

I’m positive there isn’t a need for another blog post or article or YouTube video about why same gender marriage is or isn’t right.  Everyone has made there stance known and yet we’re still yelling and spewing anger and hate.  I carry no misconceptions about my blog changing peoples minds for whether to support or oppose this issue.  So I don’t intend to try.  This post isn’t about getting my view out there or promoting my agenda.  This post isn’t even meant point back to the purpose of this weekend.  This post is meant to point to the purpose of our life, Jesus, and promote His agenda.  

The truth is you can’t legislate morality one way or the other.  You can try, but it won’t matter.  If you legalize same gender marriage, people will still oppose it.  If you don’t, people will still oppose that decision.  It won’t end.  Truthfully, I’m not sure that this legislation is the real issue.  I know it’s a big deal for many people, but the basis of all this is the desire for equality.  Sadly, that won’t ever happen.  There will always be someone that has more.  More rights, more money, more ability, more privileged.  That’s not to say we don’t fight for what is right, good and just.  I’m thankful for people like MLK Jr.  He’s a hero for sure.  But we’ll never live in a country or world, for that matter, where everyone is equal.

But, there is one place where we are all the same.  Where no one’s transgressions outweigh another’s.  A place where we are loved regardless of us.  A place where we can rest after the strain of our shouts to be heard.  It’s the cross.  We stand at the foot of the cross on equal and level ground.  The cross is not an Easter thing.  It’s a thank God everyday thing.  It’s the place that Jesus, through His blood, sweat and tears, prepared for us to be on the same footing as everyone else.  It’s the place that Jesus meets us and loves us.  There we are equals, all of us.

Regardless of how passionate you are about this issue, if you’re a Christian you have three commands from Jesus (there where a lot of them, but three that encompass them all): 1) Love God, 2) Love others, and 3) Make disciples.  Those three commands require their own post… maybe even their own book, hmm.  But that middle command wasn’t group specific, it actually meant others.  Not just your friends or church or even other Christians.  It means all others.  When you genuinely love God, you’ll love others and you’ll make disciples.  Carl Medaris, author of ‘Speaking of Jesus‘, makes this point perfect when asked by a lesbian, “What’s your position on gays?”  He said, “I didn’t even think about that one, ‘The same as Jesus’: to love them.'”  That’s Jesus’ agenda: to love others.  That was the purpose of the cross and this weekend: so we know He loves us and so we are enabled to love others. 

We’re all equal at the cross,

Bruce

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