What Does it Mean to Bear a Cross?
There are several passages in Scripture that discuss the notion of carrying a Cross on behalf of our Lord. Luke 9:23 “Then he said to them all, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” Is one such. This is also found in Matthew 16: 24-26 “Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?” These passages give a clear indication that being a follower of Jesus has a price attached to it. There will be a sacrifice to giving witness to Jesus as Lord and Savior.
The Cross we bear is for the sake of the Gospel, the Good News. The Good News is, of course, that Jesus has risen, He has risen indeed! The living out of our lives in response to this gift of grace upon grace is what will provoke a backlash and create the Cross we must bear.
Let’s be clear, however, on what bearing a Cross is not. Bearing a Cross for Christ does not mean that you suffer any and all awful situations in life. In a very fine sermon my pastor gave, she told the story of a friend of hers who was in an abusive marriage. This woman told this to her minster, and he responded that she would need to bear it, for this was her cross. This is completely erroneous. This has nothing to do with sacrificing for our Lord in the service of spreading His message of hope and redemption. To take this position is to embrace a masochistic ethic that has nothing to do with either God or His plan for His children.
What Then is Our Cross?
If we are being asked to bear a cross for the sake of Jesus, then what does that look like? It may be different things for different people, in differing circumstances. It may mean broken relationships because people may walk away from us as Jesus followers. It may mean a different field of employment if we come to believe that the one we are in does not honor God, or creates too many compromises. It may mean, if one is in a dangerous part of the world, that you risk your very earthly life for the sake of the Gospel.
One of the common threads in all of this is that we should make some kind of sacrifice. We should do something in response to the faith we have been given. It may mean a monetary sacrifice. It might be giving some of your time and talent to a ministry. It most certainly means discussing your faith frankly when the topic comes up, and if it does not come up then bring it up. Some are called to give up half their belongings, like Matthew the tax collector. Some are asked to give it all up, like the rich man. Some like the widow (Mark 12: 41-44), give not out of their surplus but out of their need. As I have discussed previously to be a follower of Jesus is to go above and beyond the call, in response to God giving us everything through His Son. We will, of course, fall far short of the glory of God, as Paul reminds us, but ours is to do the best we feebly can.
Must the Privileged Bear a Bigger Cross?
In a word, yes. First, who are the privileged? It is a bit like the Supreme Court’s definition of pornography. I cannot really define it, but I know it when I see it. As in the cases of what different people are called to give, privilege may look different for different people. Someone who has no problem with needles and who won’t pass out, is privileged to give blood, and should think seriously about doing so.
However, when we talk of privilege, we are really talking about material wealth, money. Certainly the upper income earners in the world are amongst the privileged. This is not just the top 1%, but certainly the top 50% of earners. This is especially true in the modern West, and its unparalleled standard of living. These are the ones in society that have the wherewithal to do the most for the most people. I have dealt previously with the notion of wealth being a blessing, it is not. Yet, that does not mean that our material wealth should not color our faithful response to God’s gifts.
There is Scriptural support for this view in Luke 12: 48. The relevant portion is “From everyone to whom much has been given, much more will be required; and from one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded”. This does not negate the rejection of wealth as a blessing, it simply acknowledges that all parts of God’s creation are a part of His plan, even if we cannot fully understand it. Simply put, Jesus is telling us that if you find yourself with great means, then use those means to spread the Word of God, and to do what you can for His children.
So, what is the practical takeaway here? If you have a lot, do a lot, give a lot. It is no more complicated than loving God, and loving your neighbor. It is no easier than that either. Simple does not mean easy. Yet, there is no escaping the fact that if you find yourself in a better position than most others, your witness should be commensurate to your means. It means that your Cross is bigger. Yet, you should not lose hope or be bitter. You should thank God that you are in a position to help more people, and to make a bigger impact in spreading the awesome news of Jesus the Christ. In the end, we all need to trust that God has not given any of us a Cross that is more than we can bear. This is all a part of believing and obeying.
Praise Be to God