What is a cross? Christians immediately recognize THE cross as the instrument of Christ’s execution by which He was sacrificed for the sins of the world. But Jesus says we get one, too — not just like His, but related. And our eternal life can hinge on what we do with it.
This cross creates a fork in the road; it presents an either/or situation. It requires that we dethrone self and acknowledge Christ as Lord. It distinguishes faith from unbelief and sorts out Christians from those who just say they are. It discriminates between true worship of God and idolatry of self. For believers, there is no choice but to shoulder this cross, for our Lord, the One we follow, says, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Mark 8:34).
This cross is whatever we endure because we put Christ first.
It is related to Christ’s cross because He endured the cross to put us first, before himself, because that was the Father’s will and therefore His.
Those who are considered wise in our society think little of truth and therefore proudly speak of shades of gray rather than black/white. According to these fools, one religion is much the same as another; a person’s identity is a matter of choice or feeling and there is no grace, no undeserved love of God for man.
What will you endure in your life if you say and act otherwise? The answer to that question is your cross, at least for that moment.
What if you say that the Bible is true, that God created us and all things specially, that there is one and only one true and living God, that He has spoken to us through His word, that those who worship other gods are doomed to hell, that who we are depends upon who God made us, that God’s order in marriage, family, and society are indeed His order and therefore true? What if you say loudly that there is no Allah; it’s just a figment of idolatrous imagination? What if you say these things? Will you lose prestige, respect, status, prosperity, employment, or even your life?
What will happen if you speak of grace? This is, after all, the message of Christ. What if you speak of forgiveness to those who worship false gods, who mock true marriage, who resolve their temptations by declaring evil to be good? What if someone says, “I’m _____________,” (fill in the perversion du jour) and you reply, “There is forgiveness for you.” Will you face anger, resentment, rejection, loss of business, prosecution, fine, imprisonment? Will you face violent retribution? You may if the person rejects the forgiveness of Christ, and if so, that is your cross.
I haven’t perfectly carried my cross. Have you? That can be worrisome considering the stakes involved, as Jesus says, “For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels” (Mark 8:38 NKJV). But you are saved by Christ on His cross, not you on yours. To deny ourselves is also to deny our own righteousness and say, “God be merciful to me, a sinner.” Christ from His cross answers, “You are forgiven.”
Reverend Edward Bryant
St. Timothy Lutheran Church, Lombard, IL
* Member, Board of Regents for Bethany Lutheran College & Seminary