In Matthew 16:24 Jesus says that the core of what his way is about is carrying a cross. What does it mean to “carry your cross?”
The cross was a shameful way to die, it was designed by the Romans to be just that. They even reserved this way of execution for the lowest of the low-they didn’t crucify citizens (even Paul isn’t crucified)-and Jesus is telling his followers that this is what it means to follow him.
A cross meant that you no longer had rights. You did not have the right to live-they killed you. You didn’t have the right to dignity-they did it in public so everybody could witness you die. You didn’t have the right to privacy-they took off your clothing. You didn’t have the right to freedom from suffering-they purposefully let your death take days and maybe even weeks.
Carrying a cross is to totally give up your rights.
This is the way that Christians are supposed to be living their lives. But sadly this is not how most do. Sadly, many Christians hold on to their rights. They end up doing the exact opposite they fight for their rights; which is against what Jesus was about.
Christians even are known to fight and argue to promote Christianity. What’s up with that? Should we be sitting around fighting about what we believe? How far have we come from Jesus’ way of thinking if this is how we are acting? Are we spreading the message of giving up our rights by arguing for our beliefs? Something just doesn’t make sense to me.
If we believe that abortion is wrong do we really think we’re going to stop anybody from doing it by calling them baby-killers?? Do we honestly believe that fighting to prove that abortion is wrong in the public sphere is going to stop people from having abortions? Is this our best solution?
Is telling people their actions are wrong even our job as Christians? Is this giving up our right? Are we really the moral police? Is that the point? Or did Jesus have something bigger for us to be working towards? Instead of calling out people we believe are wrong, why not go to them and introduce them to Jesus. Introduce them to the man who wants to heal all the wrongs and abuses in their life.
I have often thought that far too often the Pharisees get a bad rap in the Bible; all they’re doing is getting people to try and live the right way. They’re trying to get people to follow the Torah. The problem is that this is not the point of the Law. The point of the Law is to show the world the way of God (in the Gospels: “Kingdom of Heaven”) by living it (Exodus 19:3-6).
Over and over in the Old Testament the prophets come down hard on the people because they forget that they are living examples of who God is and then end up Empire Building. They end up not being who they are called to be-God’s people.
We are called to live differently than those around us. We are called to live out our faith, not defend it. “Defending the faith” is not a Christian ethic, it’s Muslim. Muslims believe that the kingdom of Allah is spread by struggling (jihad); Christ said to lay down your life and pick up your cross.
How about you? Are you picking up a cross or are you struggling?