Pick up your cross. Jesus said it to his disciples—it’s recorded several times in the Gospel accounts.(Matt 10:38, Matt 16:24, Mark 8:34, and also a couple of times in Luke 9:23 and 14:27)
And it’s an ongoing thing: (note the ‘Daily’ that Luke includes.
“Then he said to them all: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.” (Lk 9:23-25 NIV)
When Jesus talked about picking up the cross, it was in conjunction with several different things: family, life, soul, material wealth. There is even a subtle warning implicit in these statements: if you’re ashamed of me now, then I (Jesus) just might be ashamed of you later—when it really matters.
So what does it mean to pick up one’s cross? We hear it all the time—“that’s the cross I have to bear”, “we all have our cross”. But I think that most people, especially in the West, don’t have a good understanding of what Jesus meant. At least when they use the phrase in relation to having to work overtime, or the car battery dying. We tend to include things like not getting along with our co-workers, someone at church, or the in-laws, and sometimes it’s just a bad hair day.
But then we hear the stories. Heartbreaking stories, real people who truly suffer for the sake of Jesus.
I recently spent 2 weeks in a country several time zones away. While there I had the opportunity to listen to several men and women talk about their faith walks. Some of these people understand what it is to suffer. They tell of going to jail for performing a baptism. And the accusations that led to the jail time sounded like something coming out of Washington D.C. Others told of being baptized, and then, on their way home, being waylaid and beaten: for the crime of converting to Christianity. Still others, when their family found out about their relationship with Jesus, were order to leave the home, were disinherited, cut out of the will, and left penniless and homeless.
What would you do in those cases? I like to think I would be able to lift my head high, and carry on; but would I have the strength to do so? Would I change my mind and turn my back on Jesus or would I go back to the safety of what I had always believed.
And some of my new friends have incredible stories to tell about their lives now. Some are pastors, others are evangelists, many have new found friends, and of course they have an abiding faith in Jesus. Some tell stories of the families who disowned them, years later, coming to a saving faith in Christ themselves.
And as I listened to the stories, all I could do was praise God. The Lord of all creation is calling people to him, and using them to plant the seeds for others to follow also. And if I'm willing to pick up my cross daily and follow, then I get to be a part of this too. And so do you. Pick up that cross today, and everyday, and start following!