Tuesday, March 16, 2010

...musings on taking up your cross



some of my favorite verses in the Gospels...
are those where Jesus tells us to,"take up our cross and follow Him"...

but they are also often the focus of misunderstanding...
even among those who heard those words spoken, there was confusion...
as to just what it meant to, "take up your cross'...

many believers think that these words are a challenge...
that if we truly believe, we must bear the burden of great sufferings...
as Christ bore great sufferings for us...
to save us from the burden of all our sinful actions...



but He was God...undeserving...
His death paid for our sins...
once... for all...



since He hung there for us, we don't need to hang there with Him...
anyway... we can't... we aren't innocent...
we are guilty...
but can only obtain His gift of dying in our place...
paying our debt, simply by accepting it as He offers it...
free for the asking... no strings attached...
we can't "earn it" by climbing up there with Him...
because after all, we put Him there...

so what about,"take up your cross" ?

the thought that Jesus wants us to "suffer with Him"...
to somehow earn forgiveness is false...
[and actually dishonoring the gift He gave us by trying to earn it...]
He does not intend our lives here on earth to be painful & hard...
He wants us to rejoice in His gifts and share His love...
being joyful and thankful for all He has done for us...

but to really do that, we have to "die to self"...
or our sinful natures get in the way of His plans for us...
replacing one group of sins with others, more insidious...
more destructive of the soul and our own peace & happiness...

but still, He said,"Take up your cross & follow Me..."



so if we "take up our cross" to follow Him...
what are we really doing ? where are we going ?

we can do nothing to earn any part of the price He paid...
we must accept that it is only available to us as a gift...
on our own, we fall way too short of being able to bridge any gaps...

so what does it mean to "take up your cross" ?



we are to crucify ourselves...

the self that gets puffed-up with the sin of pride...
allows in the demons that cause us to explode in anger...
the arrogance that causes us to dismiss those whom we think less of...
the rationalizations that keep us from doing or not doing....
all the things that we know we should really do or not...

[but everybody does it...]

the excuses we make, the people we gossip about, the corners we cut...
the things we let slide when we are too tired, too busy or too stiff or sore...
all the little "human" sins that we tend to gloss over...
and especially, the indulgences that we know are just plain wrong...

I don't mean that bit of chocolate or glass of beer after a long day...
or even that, "mental health day" home from work...
but the soul numbing, & ultimately, killing vices...
that will with continued use, silence the voice of your moral compass...
& make the enemy positively beam with happiness...

for example...


"I don't need to go to church, I can talk to God right here"...
[been guilty of that one, too many times...]

"I deserve to skip[Bible study/ Morning Prayer/Mass]...
I'm really [jammed-up/tired/on vacation/not feeling well]...
& they won't miss me anyway"...

"I work hard... so I get to play hard... anything goes..."

"I'm not going all the way back to the store...
just to tell them that they didn't charge me for that..."

"just tell them you never [received the notice/saw the sign/got the bill]..."

"I have NO idea who scratched your car..."

"what they don't know... they'll never miss it... finders-keepers..." etc...

and so it goes on...

from anger [often righteous...] at "organized religion"...
sloth towards spiritual duties and responsibilities...
greed for the trappings and "eases" of the world...
lust for the appeasement of sexual appetites...
pride in how much better we may see ourselves than,"those other people"...
jealousy for the attentions of those we care about impressing...
fear of being uncomfortable or in any kind of pain...

the "self" we are adjured to "die to" is complicated...
"self-serving", egotistical, vain & potent...
no matter how humble or simple we think we are...
we are living in a self-centered world...
and if we are "of " the world, & not merely "in" it...



then we must, moment by moment, take up our cross...
and nail that sinful self to it...
so we may die to the old sinful parts of ourselves, moment by moment...
which the enemy continues to "court" with all worldly things, moment by moment...
that we may so die to self, that we can truly live to Christ...

"being in the world... but not of it..."

merely sojourners, just passing through...
striving to make "Heaven on earth" while we are here...
but keeping our focus on that which will be...
the important things, the real things...

raising our eyes from the present struggles...
to the glories of forever...

in this world, nobody gets out alive...
in the next, nobody gets in unless they've died to self...


3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this useful article.

john said...

this article has been a blessing to me.

john said...

this article has been a blessing to me. thank you