In the early days of World War II, after Winston Churchill took over the leadership of England, he offered his people “blood, sweat, and tears.” During the siege of Rome in 1849, Garibaldi, the Italian general, made a proclamation: “Soldiers, all our efforts against superior forces have been unavailing. I have nothing to offer you but hunger and thirst, hardship, and death. But I call on all who love their country to join with me.” You would think that people would retreat in these situations. But statements such as this brought more people stepping up to serve.
One of the most well-known and challenging statements of Jesus is: “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow me.” Jesus certainly isn’t offering an “easy life” here! No, he offered a cross and an invitation to do God’s work.
Several years ago, a church published an advertisement that free iPads would be given away at Easter Sunday worship! YIKES! This is a far cry from Jesus saying, “I offer you to freely take up a cross. What I offer you is an invitation to sacrificial love, to love one another, to take care of those in dire need.”
Jesus didn’t come to make life easy, but to make life meaningful! Jesus came to make us right with God, to have a daily relationship with God.
Of course, Jesus never calls upon his followers to do or face anything that he himself wasn’t prepared to do and face. What he asks us to face, he has already faced. Jesus calls upon us to take up a cross only because he himself first suffered and died on a cross for us.
Sacrificial cross-bearing doesn’t come naturally. It’s a choice. It’s voluntary. It’s an act of love that we freely choose. For Jesus, it meant suffering and death because he loved us so much he could do nothing else. For us, it means reaching out to people who are unlovable and unlovely, even people who never return the love. We keep on loving because that’s what Jesus did, and that’s what Jesus calls us to do.
Here’s an idea for your reflection: take the word “love” and replace it with “cross-bearer” in the “love chapter” of the Bible (First Corinthians 13). “A cross-bearer is patient. A cross-bearer is kind. A cross-bearer does not envy. A cross-bearer does not boast. A cross-bearer is not arrogant or rude. A cross-bearer is not self-seeking. A cross-bearer is not easily angered, nor keeps records of wrongs. A cross-bearer does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. A cross-bearer always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”