". . . little shall I grace my cause

In speaking for myself. Yet, by your gracious patience,

I will a round unvarnish'd tale deliver . . ."

(William Shakespeare's Othello, I.iii.88-90)

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Take Up Your Cross

"And he said to all, 'If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.'" - Luke 9:23-26

Christians love to make their salvation about themselves: their decision to pursue it, their choice to accept it, their works to earn it. Thus when we hear this well known passage our gut reaction is to think of the taking up of one's cross as something we do to earn God's approval--to prove ourselves to Him. We look at the ways we suffer in our everyday lives and congratulate ourselves for persevering in the face of that suffering: "See, Jesus? See? I'm suffering but I'm not giving up. I'm following you. I'm remaining faithful. Aren't you proud of me?" We are perhaps tempted to buy into the Roman Catholic view of our suffering as something we can "offer up" to Jesus, adding our suffering to His so as to help Him in his redemptive work.

Here's what Father Luther has to say about that:

"Illness, poverty, pain, and the like must not be called a cross; they are not worthy of that name. . . . This is finding the cross: to know your own self, or to know the cross. Where do you find that? In your heart. Unless you find it there the finding of it outwardly is of no avail. 'Whosoever willeth to come to me, let him take up his cross and follow me.' You must come to the point when you say, 'My Lord and my God, would that I were worthy of it.' You must be as joyful about it as were the dear saints." (Martin Luther, Day by Day We Magnify Thee, Sermons from 1527)

So much for smugly patting ourselves on the back for enduring all that this world throws at us. None of that can even qualify as a cross. "This is finding the cross: to know your own self . . . ." In other words, finding the cross is looking within and seeing the sin that is responsible for our Saviour's taking up His cross and then being brought to repentance and wanting nothing more than to follow that Saviour in the way of the cross because that is where hope, forgiveness, and new life are to be found.

Jesus doesn't ask us to take up our crosses so that we can help Him. He asks us to do it so that He can help us.


Susan said...

My pastor often talks about the cross being our sinful nature. We bear it. We suffer under it. We take up that cross (that living-with-our-sinful-nature) and have to go on in life, serving our neighbor while still fumbling along with our sinful nature. The only way to bear it is to live in the confidence of the forgiveness of sins. Even though we still have the cross, we live with it because (on account of Christ's death) God reckons us to not-have the sinful nature. That's why we "deny ourselves" -- we deny that there is anything within us that makes God like us. It is all HIS love and HIS decision and HIS will and HIS choice and HIS promise.

Leah said...

"Illness, poverty, pain, and the like must not be called a cross; they are not worthy of that name. . . . This is finding the cross: to know your own self, or to know the cross."

Thank you. That helps to clear up some things about what is to be called a cross and what isn't.

I like what Susan said about it being our sinful nature. I can see why THAT is a cross to me. It kills me far more than physical sufferings ever did!

Cheryl said...

I need a like button for both of your comments. :-)

Kim said...

Hi Cheryl! This is Kim Jones from Creation Camp at the Church last summer. LOVE your blog! Very cool articles! Very well done!

I enjoyed having your kids at camp last summer! They were a joy!

Thanks so much for your testimony through your blog! Well done!

In Christ,

Kim Jones


Cheryl said...

Kim, it's great to hear from you! Thanks for stopping by! I understand you're coming back this year, so we will look forward to seeing you again in a few months!