Taking Up Your Cross
"Then he said to them all, "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it. What does it profit them if they gain the whole world, but lose or forfeit themselves? " Luke 9: 23-25
Being a Christian is not easy. It is for this reason that I am skeptical of anyone that touts Christianity as the easy, breezy road to happiness. Christianity is a struggle with the world, and Christianity is a struggle with the self.
In Luke 9, Christ says, "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me." This passage is quite familiar to us; but, in order to understand the verse's true meaning, it is important to understand what Christ implies when he asks us to deny ourselves.
In Luke 9:18, we read that Christ was praying alone, but the disciples were close enough to Jesus to hear him ask a very important question. The question, of course, related to the true identity of Jesus, and Peter is the only disciple to give the correct answer, "The Messiah of God."
Then, Jesus does something really strange. He orders the disciples not to tell anyone that he is the Messiah because it was not time for the world to know his true identity. In fact, people would not believe Christ's claim until after the crucifixion and resurrection. In essence, Jesus is denying his destiny. He is denying his true identity in order to save the world from their sins.
Many people in Christ's time expected the Messiah to be a warrior. If he wanted to be self-serving, Jesus could have very easily given the people what they wanted. He knew that they were looking for a physical conqueror and not the humble, compassionate shepherd that stood before them. Christ could have come in any form he desired, but that was not God's plan. Instead, he chose a route of suffering, humiliation, pain, and death.
When we decide to follow Christ, we must fight the urge to be boastful. We must fight the urge to use our Christianity as a measuring tool for success or as a way to make ourselves look better than our neighbor.
Sometimes I hear the words "successful, Christian businessman" to describe well-known people in my community. When I hear "Christian" tied together with success, I have to question the description. While it is true that all good gifts come from God, we must understand to concept of humility. Being successful is simply not an indicator of one's Christianity. When we use this moniker to describe others, it is as if we are saying that an individual's failure to achieve worldly status is a direct result of failing to be a "good" Christian.
The desire to achieve worldly status and praise is a burden that is placed upon us by society. Giving up these desires in order to follow Christ is the way to Christianity. Taking up our cross daily is a reflection of how we deal with the rejection that occurs when we refuse to succumb to worldly pressures. After all, what does it profit us to gain the world but lose ourselves in the process?