Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”Luke 9:23
The Jews were expecting a Messiah who would come and relieve them of their painful oppression and establish a kingdom on this earth. They wanted relief from their earthly suffering. But when Christ came, he did the opposite. He asked people to take up their crosses and follow Him. He sacrificed Himself for the love of others and asked us to do the same.
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!
After Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection, the early believers were persecuted and martyred, even torn apart by lions because of their faith. What has happened to believers in the last two thousand years? Why has our attitude changed? Why do we expect God to give us a “safe” country, free from persecution? Why do we think we “deserve” to have our rights protected?
I’m not saying there is anything wrong with wanting to preserve our American way of life and all the great freedoms we have. But I am saying we can’t equate that desire with our Christian faith. When Christ walked the earth, He did nothing of a political nature and expressed no interest in establishing an earthly reign or inserting Himself into governmental decisions. To put it simply, Jesus was focused on eternal things. His purpose was to demonstrate God’s love through sacrifice… a sacrifice to which we are called every single day.
I’ve often thought if we lived in a setting like the early Christians–if we risked our lives every time we professed our faith–perhaps we would take that faith more seriously. Perhaps we would be less self-centered. Perhaps we would be more focused on the next life and less concerned with our temporal world. Perhaps our prayers would be more about helping God’s kingdom to come and less about preserving our own luxurious way of life.
Lest you think I’m standing on a pedestal casting disparaging remarks, let me confess how much I enjoy the standard of living I’ve come to expect. And I will admit my prayers are often self-centered, pertaining to asking for gifts and favors to make my life more comfortable and safe. Though I was taught by the example of the most selfless parents you can imagine to put others first, I still fall into a habit of selfishness.
But that doesn’t keep me from hearing a voice calling me to change. To take up my cross and follow Him. To pray only for my “daily bread” rather than insist my luxurious way of life be extended. To learn to be more like my Savior, who willingly sacrificed His life out of love for other people, even forgiving the people who hated Him while they were putting Him to death.
And I’ll admit one more thing. That thought scares me… a lot.
No, I’m not standing on a pedestal looking down. Instead, I’m on my knees looking up. And I’m praying that the Lord would find a way to put that burning love back into our hearts–into my heart. A love so strong that we would willingly sacrifice everything we have for the love of others. No matter the cost.