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When Life Is Defined By a Cross

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.  For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.  -Luke 9:23-24 

“When Life Is Defined By A Cross”

            There is a side of Christianity we generally like to avoid.  We love it up in Galilee, where Jesus is talking about the lilies of the field and becoming like little children; but we did not know we were in for any crosses.  Why can’t people simply be kind to each other?  We say, “live and let live,” follow out Jesus’ moral ideals and have everything come out all right.” (Shoemaker, 33)

            But THAT FATEFUL NIGHT and the day following, it became abundantly clear what the disciples have desperately tried to avoid—even though Jesus had tried to prepare them—at the heart of the authentic Christian message has always been the scandal, the cross.

            To Jesus’ contemporaries, the sheer disgrace of dying on a cross as a thief;  to the self-righteous, the idea it was necessary for salvation;  to all, the real scandal, the stumbling block of the cross is that it symbolizes the kind of life Jesus’ Disciples are called to live—a life of servant.  In fact, a slave is closer to the Biblical idea.

            The Apostle Paul gives explicit expression to this:

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, …he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death– even death on a cross.  (Philippians: 2:5,8)                   

            And that is exactly what troubles us.  “We do not want to die.  We want to live—richly,   interestingly, profitably in this world—to make our mark, to enjoy our comforts, and to do a little good conveniently on the side.” (Sam Shoemaker, 36)

            Jesus’ own words place the issue clearly before us:

                        Unless  a grain  of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.
                        He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 
                        If anyone serves me, he must follow…the Father will honor him.”

              We often talk  about service but rarely do we really think of service in this sense—the bond slave who gives life for the master.

            In reality, what Jesus does is turn things upside down.  He gives a new definition of greatness =service, and the extent of that service the cross.

             If you  think discipleship is about God making life easier, helping you be a winner, etc. and other such sugar coated drivel, you have not heard about the cross.  It is mind blowing demands and challenges.  Remember Mission Impossible—“Your mission Mr. Phelps…”.  Your mission, your assignment follower of Jesus is “live a life defined by a cross.”  It is life under orders and in the interests of others.

            Jesus laid it out and then demonstrated it with his own life for you (and me).

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